‘Doctor Sleep’ is a Thoughtful Re-Contextualization of ‘The Shining’

How do you create a follow up to one of the most influential and beloved horror films of all time? Director Mike Flanagan has an answer: you don’t simply retread The Shining, you craft a response to to it. Straight off the success of his acclaimed Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House, Flanagan sinks his teeth into his most daring project yet, whilst still retaining the emotional authenticity that has made his work a standout amongst his mainstream horror peers. The result is Doctor Sleep, a messier beast compared to the unnerving precision of Kubrick’s masterpiece, but one that is distinctly bold, sentimental, and of its own identity.

Doctor Sleep‘s biggest strength is that it is not interested in trying to recapture the glory of its 1980’s predecessor; it instead tries to make sense of it. The film follows an older Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) struggling to cope with the evil he experienced at the Overlook Hotel, as well as battling severe depression and alcoholism. His hopes of recovery and peace are soon interrupted by Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a young girl who shares Danny’s powerful shine. Bonded together, they are then hunted by the True Knot, a cult that feeds off of the souls of children, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). The plot is heavier on building the lore and rules of the universe as opposed to than the minimalist sensibility to The Shining. Sometimes that feels quite overbearing and midichlorians-esque, but it has its benefits.

Continue reading “‘Doctor Sleep’ is a Thoughtful Re-Contextualization of ‘The Shining’”

‘Christopher Robin’ Adorably Explores Uninspired Ground

There’s a moment in Christopher Robin in which the older-but-definitely-not-wiser titular character and his best furry friend, Winnie the Pooh step into a dreary, muted, and unfamiliar version of the Hundred Acre Wood in search of their lost friends. Seeing Christopher Robin revisit a space he once inhabited, with his pure innocence and imagination- in a forgotten, disheveled state, was emotionally resonant. The once playful child, now cynical businessman, Robin suggests to Pooh to begin searching for his friends in the most efficient way possible by walking straight forward.

If you know Pooh, you’ll know this silly old bear is the opposite of efficient. While Robin’s approach takes him to point A and point B with little adventure, Pooh prefers to improvise, detour, and see where it takes him. Often, he finds success in unusual places. Marc Foster’s direction has great intentions, but its overall execution is sadly comparable to Robin’s method of exploration. This is where the film falls short. Christopher Robin is a sweet and sometimes interesting journey, but it squanders its ideas and chooses to be passable.

pooh 1
Ewan McGregor as Chirstopher Robin, and our favorite silly old bear, Pooh.

For the record, I am behind a lot of the creative conceptual choices here. I loved the idea of an older Robin having to go on a metaphorical reclamation of his own youth, the muted color palette, the stuffed animal translations of these characters, and for the first two-thirds of the film, I was invested in where it was going. The overall high points of the film begin (and end) with the Hundred Acre Wood, as adult Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) trudges down the foggy forest, getting lost in his own innocence to find Pooh’s friends. The more in touch Robin becomes with his younger self, the more awake the Wood becomes, it’s vibrant and resonant visual storytelling.

Continue reading “‘Christopher Robin’ Adorably Explores Uninspired Ground”