Grey Gardens (Albert and David Maysles, 1975: USA)

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“I didn’t want my child to be taken away! I’d be entirely alone,” rationalizes “Big” Edie while her daughter, “Little” Edie tragically and wistfully indulges the audience of her missed opportunities for love and happiness.

Grey Gardens follows Big and Little Edie Beale, high-society drop outs who live in a decadent, though dilapidated home ridden with raccoons, cats, and mice. Relics of their former glamorous past haunt the women. A sign in bold letters reads: “BIG EDIE BOUVIER BEALE: THE GREATEST SINGER” while one next to it again, boldly states, ‘LITTLE EDIE BOUVIER BEALE, THE GREATEST DANCER.” The signs mock their now bleak existence. Big Edie, scantily-clad, lays with newspapers and cats in her lap while she eats ice-cream from the container and critiques her already vulnerable daughter. Little Edie, like a teenager, prances around the hose, fashioning her tights into a head wrap to cover her alopecia (which given how her mother pressures her, is of little shock). Little Edie is very innocent. As a young woman, she was incredibly beautiful and talented yet her mother shattered her fragile ego to pieces. She became afraid of everything and was debilitated. Emotionally and mentally ravished by her mother, she resorted to a life as a recluse in the house where her mother has lived for the majority of her life.

The relatives of Jackie Onassis share some of the same characteristics. Both Big and Little Edie were beautiful, talented, and well-mannered women; popular among society and friends. However, things began to unravel after Big Edie’s husband left her. She sought solace in her own daughter, who easily-influenced and naïve, came to her mother’s beck and call. Time seems to have passed quickly since then as Little Edie sadly laments to the camera, “It’s very difficult to keep a line between the past and the present.” She is stuck in what the potential of what her former life could have been. Her mother, though largely to blame, offers little comfort. While Big Edie verbally-abuses her daughter and barks at her, “no husband, no baby, no anything,” Little Edie seems to take it in stride, or perhaps a twirl. She dreams of leaving Grey Gardens yet there is no end in sight. Even while showing the filmmakers her poetry, paintings, and dance routines upstairs, her mother shouts for her. Little Edie has been robbed of her potential. “I suppose my mother did not want me married to anyone,” she sadly explains.

The film is haunting and tragic. There is a theme of “what could have been.” “I could have been this, I could have been doing that, I could be here,” and I think if anything, an important message to take from the film, it to just bypass trying and take action. Nothing good comes from living in the past.

Five Psychological Explanations for Emma Bovary

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Case Study of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary

Evolutionary Model – Madame Emma Bovary’s actions can be explained simply by saying she did not possess the necessary evolutionary skills to survive. She was unable to cope with the demands of every day and thus depended on deplorable vices to occupy herself (affairs; lascivious daydreaming; excessive-shopping).

Psychodynamic Model – Emma Bovary suffered extremely from unconscious and unfulfilled desires and interior conflicts. These afflictions were thus expressed in her erratic, promiscuous and ultimately lethal nature. Emma, married to an incredibly bland man, was deeply unhappy and because of this, vicariously lived through vivid fantasies affected by the turmoil in her psyche and unconscious mind. Her motivations were a direct result.

Learning Model – Madame Bovary’s behavior can be explained by the abrupt relocation to Monsieur Bovary’s environment. Emma Bovary was accustomed to a sort of life, not only superficially but intellectually and otherwise, that Monsieur Bovary was unable to give her. The environmental influences and boredom that Miss Bovary experienced turned her world upside down. Monsieur Bovary also inflicted upon Emma a sense of boredom within a very sedentary life – Madame Bovary was unable to learn to adapt to his way of life and in consequence, created something of an alter-ego to carry out her affairs.

Cognitive Model – Madame Bovary’s mind was like a computer with a slew of viruses. Emma was likely bipolar; experiencing extreme highs and lows. Aside from her several affairs, she suffered from a crippling shopping addiction, leaving her and her husband, Monsieur Bovary, in extreme debt. Madame Bovary’s guilt overpowered her and led her to the irrational decision to take her own life.

Humanistic Model – There was nothing wrong with Madame Bovary. She was a vastly creative woman who had no option but to live through her imagination. Miss Bovary attempted to be good and to love her husband yet it simply wasn’t there. Monsieur Bovary didn’t give Emma the room she needed, he left her without a sense of free will. The poor woman was even forced to sneak reading – Miss Bovary simply wanted to realize her potential and the time and Monsieur Bovary stood in her way. Unfortunately, she was unable to attain a divorce and felt that suicide was her only exit.

Day Lily – Some thoughts on Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour

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In Belle de Jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967), Séverine Serizy (Catherine Deneuve) evades her mundane existence by escaping to an inviting and salacious alternate reality; a merry-go-round of domination, sex and unbridled temptation. Séverine has a passionless marriage to Pierre (Jean Sorel). As a physician, Pierre spends long hours at the office leaving Séverine alone to her thoughts. She dreams of a different life for herself; where she engages in unchaste and lascivious acts. Through flashbacks, the oppressive religious environment that Séverine grew up in is revealed; combined with her refusal to take communion as a child. The viewer learns that she was also tragically sexually abused as a young girl. Séverine desires to be punished for her sins. The opening dream sequence establishes the tone for the film and sets recurring themes; such as bells ringing and cats meowing. It ardently expresses how Séverine feels and what she desires. Séverine and her husband’s strained relationship is also made evident; his devotion and her iciness. Séverine is tightly bound and longs to be unlaced. This scene is the backbone for the film; the audience can learn so much about Séverine from this particular scene. When the viewer witnesses Séverine enjoying being whipped, the entire film takes a different turn. Without this scene, the film would be far less powerful.

In the opening scene, Séverine dreams that she has been taken out to the country. Séverine rides alongside her husband in an elegant horse carriage. The two men driving look formal and distinguished. Séverine and Pierre are dressed well; Pierre wears a black suit while Séverine is dressed in a red coat with gold buttons. They could easily be going on a romantic getaway. She sits with remarkable posture and poise. She’s aloof yet taunts you with her beauty and sexuality. The brown horses trot along; carrying them further into the country. The camera is set that we are on the carriage ourselves, viewing the mist coming from the trees and feeling the overwhelming sense of doom. Pierre speaks to Severine, “I love you more every day.” She responds that she loves him as well. He then goes on to say that he wishes she weren’t so cold; she’s upset by this. Pierre continues whispering sweet nothings and speaking of his tenderness for Severine; she stops him, “What good is your tenderness to me?” Pierre appears hurt and tells Séverine how cruel she can be. Pierre tells the men to stop the carriage. Pierre raises his voice and tells Séverine to get out; she inquires why; he refuses to answer. The coachmen grab her alongside Pierre. She begins to shriek, “It’s not my fault! I can explain everything!” The men push her further into the forest and drag her by her long, blond hair to an isolated area. They bind her hands onto a tree so that her arms are above her. Her mouth is covered with a scarf; making speaking impossible. Pierre rips her dress, exposing her back. The coachmen begin to whip her ruthlessly. She pleads to Pierre while he watches. At first seemingly in pain, a subtle hint of enjoyment shows on Severine’s porcelain face. Pierre stops them. The coachmen then comes behind to Séverine and caresses her neck, she lustfully looks back while Pierre watches. Séverine wakes to Pierre asking what she’s thinking about. She’s laying innocently in her bed; looks to him and tells him that she was thinking about them.

There are many dream sequences in the film so the opening scene is vital to comprehend Belle de Jour. We learn that Séverine is distant, aloof, and wants something else from her husband; as is made evident when she appears to be enjoying being tortured. Belle de Jour came out during the sexual revolution – when women were first using birth control and having sex for their own enjoyment. There were a lot of conflicted emotions that came along with that from both men and women. Catholic guilt also plays a heavy role. Séverine was most likely an example of many women who fought between either doing what they wanted or following the conventions that they were raised with. The significance of dreaming is heavily expressed in Luis Buñuel films. In Belle de Jour, Séverine contemplates what role she wants to play and what role she has in society. There is a clash between her reality and her dream life. Severine’s internalized world is more important than the one she is living in reality. It also truly depicts what Séverine wants and how she feels about herself. She’s ridden with guilt. Séverine believes that the sexual assault was her fault, which is why she wouldn’t take communion. She feels that she has the need to be punished and if no one else is going to do it; she’ll damn well find a way to inflict it upon herself. When the carriage abruptly stops and Séverine is taken out and screams that it wasn’t her fault; she’s defending the horrors of her past and what she believes she needs to atone for. Another example of why this scene is so pivotal for the rest of the film is when Severine’s mouth is covered with a scarf to stop her from speaking; it’s similar to her not opening her mouth as a child to take communion. She’s forced to be silent. This is shown in her daily manner. Séverine is an ice-princess, is very shy, and seldom asserts herself. Throughout Belle de Jour, Luis Buñuel toys with what is more important; our innermost wants that we dare tell no one, or our realities and how we choose to act in them.

Séverine acts upon her capricious fantasies after her husband’s friend Henri Husson (Michel Piccoli) suggests that she meet a madame at a high-class brothel. Séverine is initially appalled yet her curiosity begins to stir. She eventually goes to the brothel nervously and naively. She meets with Madame Anaïs who gives her the push that she needed. Séverine asserts that must be home before 5pm. Anaïs suggests that she be called Belle de Jour, the beauty of the day. Séverine grows immensely because of working in the brothel. She becomes more warm and open. She speaks to the other women there and becomes less frigid about sex. She becomes close with the other escorts she works with and becomes more comfortable with herself and her sexuality. In the beginning of her journey, she is shut-off sexually and seemingly always stuck in her own world. Séverine enjoys the nature of being belittled because of how low her confidence is. Séverine is one of the most and insecure characters who attempts to find a way to band-aid the pain from her past. On a fateful day, Husson comes to visit the brothel, where he is a well-known customer. He sees Séverine yet no longer desires her. Her innocence and purity are what attracted him to her in the first place. They are now gone. This is another example of Catholic guilt; of a man not wanting a woman because he believes she is soiled or ruined goods. He planted the seed to prostitute herself yet rejects her. The sexual politics in Belle de Jour are intriguing to observe as well. Séverine is both very submissive and enjoys dominance yet by the end of the film, the power is in her hands.

Séverine believes she is not worthy of her husband’s devotion and undivided attention. She believes she needs to be punished and to be used by men. That’s what she believes she deserves and what she is most familiar with. Her relationship with her husband is far different from her controlling relationship with her father conveyed through the flashbacks. All of the dream sequences are remnant of the initial one. The ringing of bells, the cats meowing; the different things that stir an emotion in Severine. The initial dream allows us to view Séverine’s innermost wants and needs and lets the audience know what Séverine sees when she looks in the mirror.

While working, Séverine meets a young gangster called Marcel (Pierre Clementi). Despite having awful teeth, he’s alluring and titillating. Séverine enjoys him; even not charging him for her services. When Séverine leaves for a few weeks to be with her husband; Marcel becomes irate. He becomes obsessed with her even stalking her to find out where she lives. Marcel threatens to tell Severine’s husband what she does during the day if she doesn’t see him again. Marcel leaves and waits below their stairs, he shoots Pierre before ultimately being shot down by the police. Pierre remarkably survives yet is paralyzed. Husson one day comes to visit. Séverine and he speak; Séverine informs him that she is no longer working as an escort. Husson decides to tell Pierre and Séverine doesn’t object. After Husson leaves, Séverine feels her conscience is cleared. She takes care of his every whim, ultimately atoning for her sins.

Hugo (Martin Scorsese, 2011): USA

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It is difficult to think of a setting more romantic and bewitching than the magic of Paris in the 1930s. From the awe-inspiring scenery to the luscious flowers being sold by beautiful French women at vendors, this truly is an enchanting film. In this imaginative film, a peculiar young boy with very blue eyes, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), resides in the walls of a train station. He has learned to operate machinery and has inherited the responsibility to keep the train station clocks running from his beloved and brilliant father.

Hugo shares the tale of a brave young boy whose only remnant of his father is an automaton that he is trying to fix. He believes that his father has left him a message in this strange mechanical man yet to uncover this message, he must find the special heart-shaped key that is missing. Being the only connection he has to his father, finding the key becomes his quest. While on his journey, Hugo never fails to meet fellow, fascinating characters. Among the people that will assist Hugo include Ben Kingsley’s character George Melies, a shopkeeper who has a secret of his own and his beautiful young, god-daughter, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Mortez). Isabelle, an adorable and feisty avid-reader, who is always quoting literary geniuses, such as Christina Georgina Rossetti, will be with Hugo all of the way, making him believe again in the goodness of people. Sasha Baron Cohan also gives a noteworthy performance as the trouble-seeking, persistent Station Inspector. Robert Richardson, the director of photography for Hugo, does a superb job. The vivid colors help bring the film the life. Hugo reminds one of what it was like to be a child and to have hope resurrected. One recalls what it feels like to be awed at this beautiful world and to be full of wonder. If any readers have ever wanted to go into the film industry, Hugo will remind you why you wanted to in the first place. Martin Scorsese beautifully illustrates the magic of film and how that will never cease to be.

Zero Dark Thirty (Bigelow, 2012): USA

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“If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just chose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies,” asserts award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow. Kathryn Bigelow is paving the way for future women who aspire to be in the film industry. She has become the definition of an innovator with her keen insight of the male psyche and her ability to cleanse herself of gender and dive into a war-torn male world. The emotions that Zero Dark Thirty provokes are intense enough that it’s easy to forget, or simply not notice, whether a man or woman made the film. From The Hurt Locker (2008) to her earlier work, she works primarily in male-dominated genres. Rejecting the stereotypes of women, Bigelow isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty or to explore topics where generally, a woman isn’t invited. Kathryn Bigelow captures the audience’s attention through her use of voyeurism, tactful violence and engaging subjects. Bigelow makes the viewer feel as though they are a fly on the wall.

Zero Dark Thirty begins with merely a black screen, viewers hear the tragic last phone calls of those who died during the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. “Am I going to die? Am I going to die?” asks a terrified woman calling from the Twin Towers. Seconds away from death, we hear a pause knowing the outcome. Bigelow uses voyeurism to make one feel as if they’re either in one of the towers or as if they’re the operator on the line, completely helpless. The phone calls evoke ardent emotions: furious anger, sorrow and a thirst for justice. The eery and chilling phone calls set the tone for the film and place one back to the apocalyptic nightmare that 3,000 people couldn’t awake from. Hearing a recording of a woman about to die a horrible death at the hands of terrorists motivates the urge to seek retribution. Bigelow continues to place voyeurism throughout Zero Dark Thirty by surveillance, television, and having the audience feel as though they’re behind the scenes of a tragic event that we have only seen narrowed perspectives on. The audience is now able to see it all, the good along with the bad. Her use of voyeurism results in Zero Dark Thirty feeling like a roller coaster where no emotion is left behind. There’s moments of absolute terror, paranoid patriotism. Zero Dark Thirty begs the question; what happens if?

Kathryn Bigelow’s use of violence is one of her recurring themes. “When you lie to me, I hurt you,” declares CIA agent Dan (Jason Clarke). The first twenty minutes of the movie show the torture of Ammar al-Baluchi, a man with links to bin Laden. During his interrogation, Dan uses water-boarding, torture, and humiliation to make Ammar al-Baluchi speak. The violence is not softened or glamorize. It’s ugly, realistic, and the worst of all seems also business-like. Dan has no hesitation or repulsion in violating and torturing this man. In comparison to other films featuring torture, there’s no music or anything to add levity (think Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs). This is happening and there’s no escaping it. This paints a vivid and revealing portrait of the measures that were considered necessary. When Ammar is being water-boarded, it’s terrifying to see him gasping for air and brings to mind whether or not the United States were just or if they went too far. Bigelow’s use of violence and the tension built throughout the film causes one to anticipate and look forward to the relief and satisfaction felt at the death of Osama bin Laden. Torture was vital to include because it exhibits the extremities that were used. There’s a perverse pleasure of seeing terrorists killed or photos of their lifeless bodies on national television. Bigelow has been quoted as saying, “I think violence in a cinematic context can be, if handled in a certain way, very seductive.” With America’s strong aversion to sex in films, Bigelow fills the void with violence.

Bigelow explores the sexual politics between men and women. The male characters she creates are incredibly macho while she strays away from stereotyping women. Bigelow explores the mentality of masculine men and captures their relationships with one another brilliantly. Bigelow’s female characters consistently are very intelligent, three-dimensional, and intriguing. Bigelow is careful to not objectify women and to an extent, does the opposite of the theory of the male gaze. The male characters in Zero Dark Thirty are secondary to Maya (Jessica Chastain). For example, the protagonist Maya is cold, collected, and has brilliant psychological insight. Maya is initially trying to find her place in a male-dominated environment and does so with her intuition and fierce dedication. One knows she’s quite comfortable when CIA chief (James Gandolfini) questions who she is. Maya responds, “I’m the motherfucker who discovered the place – sir.” She isn’t intimidated by the boys, rather it’s the opposite, and with good reason.

Along with her use of violence, Kathryn Bigelow also explores the relationship between reality and the media. Throughout the film, we see reports of the news yet the real world is far different from what the media shows us. In Zero Dark Thirty, the audience is offered a chance to see all sides rather than hearing one-sided, biased reports from the news. There’s a pivotal scene where Maya and two other CIA agents focus on the television to hear President Barack Obama reiterate that “American doesn’t torture.” Their faces are stoic; what are they thinking? Does Maya have remorse or regret? Kathryn Bigelow allows the audience to make their own conclusions regarding torture in America and how it aided our capture of Osama bin Laden.

Kathryn Bigelow’s academy award winning film The Hurt Locker draws many parallels to Zero Dark Thirty. Both are set against the Iraq-Afghanistan war, explore relationships among those in service, and place the viewer into a situation where they have no choice but to be present and enjoy the ride. Bigelow compares addiction to adrenaline almost as severe as a junkie’s need for their next fix. Maya’s life is capturing Osama bin Laden. Such as a drug addict having a level of obsession so ardent that nothing else in the world matters. Maya is sent down a rabbit hole of dead ends, interrogations, false intelligence, only rarely seeing light at the end of the tunnel. She is a woman possessed and will cling onto the few silver linings that she gets through excruciating work.

Toward the end of the film, night-vision goggles are used which present a surreal and unnerving feeling for the audience. Paranoia peaks not knowing where Osama bin Laden is, or if he’s there. The chaos of the situation and what they’re doing is blood-tingling. One is left on pins and needles on their seat as children and women are escorted out, not revealing whether or not bin Laden is there. Navy SEALs continue through the compound revealing children crying or holding onto their mothers. One is feverishly waiting to see Osama bin Laden and barely able to stay on their seat. The built-up adrenaline along with the setbacks that were faced along the way make one obsessed to see the downfall of Osama bin Laden. Maya’s obsession is contagious and by the end of the film, the audience wants it just as badly as she does. When Osama bin Laden is shot, the feelings are complex. There’s anger, a sense of relief and joy but also an acknowledgment of the moral compromises that were made. There is an underlying sadness and questions are posed. Are we really so different? There is a duality of good and evil between America and the Middle East yet the decision of which is which, is left to the viewer.

Zero Dark Thirty is both foreboding but beautifully poetic all at once. Through her graceful edits, she reminds one that despite how dismal and dark a world can seem, there still remains light and beauty. During somber events, there still remains a radiant, comforting light. Through her brilliant use of color and tone changes, the viewer can either feel at ease or like Chicken Little believing the sky is falling. One could argue Kathryn Bigelow exhibits her femininity most through her use of editing. She finds light where one wouldn’t think beauty existed. However, Bigelow also knows how to take one to the darkest of places. Her exceptional talent for developing and exploring male and female psyches assist Bigelow in knowing how her films will effect the audience. For women, it’s refreshing to not see the normal objectification of female characters and to have a female character that doesn’t need to have a romantic relationship to feel validated. It’s empowering to see a woman doing traditionally man’s job and perhaps even doing it better.

Breakfast At Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards, 1961): USA

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In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) evades her murky past by adopting a glamorous, new identity. There are many beautiful and witty protagonists yet what separates Holly from them is her deep sadness. Holly is in a constant battle between stability and freedom. She’s attempting to escape from reality, from people, and places. She’s even in denial of her own identity. She adopts the name of “Holiday Golightly,” encapsulating her desire to avoid stability by believing life is a mere holiday, that one can just simply abandon relationships and responsibilities when they threaten to jeopardize her independence.

When Holly’s love interest, Paul (George Peppard) first sees Holly in distress and inquires what the matter is, she asks if he knows what the “mean reds” are. Paul asks if they’re similar to having the blues. “No, the blues are because you’re getting fat or maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re sad, that’s all. But the mean reds are horrible. You’re afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Except something bad is going to happen, only you don’t know what it is.” Paul, or Fred as Holly likes to call him, asks what she uses as a cure “what I’ve found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany’s,” Holly says. Her devastatingly-sweet innocence and desperate desire for a home are made evident. Her true naivety of the world is shown. “It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen at Tiffany’s.”

Holly Golightly is an incredibly sad and complex character. Holly does not love herself therefore no one else is allowed to. Her instability and inability to deal with reality are heavily pressed on in the film. Holly has no tangible goals – she has a vision for what she wishes her life to be like but is too afraid to go forward. In this sense, the film does not appear to follow Hollywood classical conventions but rather follows an Art Cinema aesthetic.

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represents an era that many still continue to mimic and were inspired to from the film. Breakfast at Tiffany’s was also very progressive for its time. The author, Truman Capote, originally wanted Marilyn Monroe to star as Holly Golightly but she was unable to because of a film conflict and also was under the advice that acting as a ditsy call girl wasn’t in the best interest for her image. As tormented as she is and despite her at times silly decisions, Holly remains a survivor and independent.

My Week With Marilyn (Simon Curtis, 2011) USA

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In My Week With Marilyn, Michelle Williams channels Marilyn Monroe’s loneliness and vulnerability as well as her intelligence. As a sex symbol emulated by generations of women, it is easy to forget Monroe’s darker side and how she stumbled toward her demise in stilettos. How does an actor learn to capture a character as complex as Monroe? Michelle Williams was quoted as saying it was terrifying, that she felt as though she was in “free fall” the entire time. Monroe placed paramount importance on her acting coaches, first Natasha Lytess, and later Lee Strasberg, who were both instrumental in her journey to becoming a star. “I want to grow and develop and play serious dramatic parts,” Monroe told The New York Times in 1953. “My dramatic coach, Natasha Lytess, tells everybody that I have a great soul, but so far nobody’s interested in it.”

Marilyn Monroe’s style was inimitable–from the sheer rhinestone-studded dress she was sewn into to sing happy birthday to President Kennedy, to the infamous white halter dress she wore while standing on a manhole in The Seven Year Itch, to ultimately being buried in a Pucci dress. Style is a form of expression and a way of getting into character. Michelle Williams, with the assistance of pads on her hips, is able to accurately portray Monroe as a sexual woman-child. She resonates an air of innocence yet her need for resilience is evident. The wardrobe in My Week With Marilyn is beautiful and assists in bringing her character to life. As Marilyn Monroe put it, “Give a girl the right pair of shoes and she can conquer the world.” In My Week with Marilyn, Emma Watson portrays Lucy, a wardrobe assistant who dresses Monroe in all of her incarnations. Despite the small role, Emma Watson brings her confidence and quick wit to the character.

Marilyn Monroe exuded an air of naivety and innocence that made a man’s desire to shelter a woman surface. Yet there were many men who exploited her. Monroe had many lovers, always seeking something that she could only find within herself: strength. Colin Clark, the love interest of Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn, played by Eddie Redmayne, captures a young man in love perfectly. He idolizes her, loves her spontaneity, and falls quickly. Michelle Williams exudes the same sensuality as Marilyn did. Monroe is quoted as saying “A woman can’t be alone. She needs a man. A man and a woman support and strengthen each other. She just can’t do it by herself.” In acting, it’s vital to know who you are and to have resilience. Many people say, if you can do anything else at all, do it; if your only talent is acting, then you do it. I highly recommend this film if only for the sheer purpose of seeing another side of Marilyn Monroe.