Nancy’s Reads & Reels: “Canada” by Richard Ford, “Hope Springs” and "Circumstance"

One book and two movies.

I’ve tried to read books by Richard Ford (The Sportswriter, Independence day, etc.), but never got past the first few pages and so when I read the reviews of Canada I thought the premise sounded interesting—nobody writes about the bank robbers' children.

Dell Parson is the narrator and he recalls his life before and after the bank robbery. When the robbery took place, he and his twin sister, Berner, were living ordinary lives in Great Falls, Montana. Dell’s father, Bev, is retired from the Air Force and having a hard time finding honest work, so he decides to become a crook, and when he messes up his crooked dealings with the local Cree Indians he decides to rob a bank. Dell’s mother goes along with her husband’s plan just to be doing something to change her life, even though as a schoolteacher you would think she’d have better sense.  The bank robbers get caught and sent to prison leaving Dell and Berner, at age fifteen, to fend for themselves or end up wards of the state.

After a visit with their mother and father at the local jail, Berner runs away, and a family friend takes Dell to Canada. The friend leaves Dell with her mysterious brother in Saskatchewan. Most of the book takes place in this bleak place and you keep hoping that Dell will get a chance to go to school and get away from this place and these scary people. You know that he will because he writes that he is an English teacher in his 60’s looking back on his life. The question is how many pages will it take and what terrible things will happen before he gets an education and goes on with his life.

Richard Ford is, a writer’s writer, and much of Canada is so well written, I wanted to like it more than I actually did.

Hope Springs is Hollywood’s idea of a movie that will appeal to an older generation of moviegoers. Maybe it is but I kept hoping for a laugh or two. Meryl Streep (frumpy housewife) and Tommy Lee Jones (grumpy old man) seem so wrong for this movie. These are well-respected actors doing their best but couldn’t they come up with something better than this? A story about people dying of boredom and hoping to rekindle their love life could work but somehow it doesn’t.  How about a trip to India—oh no, that was The Marigold Hotel, a far superior movie and one that older moviegoers really liked.

Circumstance is a movie about underground Iran, the drinking, dancing and drugs that go on under the nose of the authorities. Two teenage girls rebel against the Islamic theocracy in ways that put them in danger of arrest or worse. Everyone connected to this movie had to take on a huge challenge. They couldn’t film in Iran so they filmed in Beirut, Lebanon, which made the authorities there suspicious. Even though the movie supposedly took place in Iran they couldn’t mention Iran. Try to imagine yourself living under the rule of these mullahs—I can’t. You have to commend the people who made this movie for their bravery in taking on an aspect of Iranian life that is never shown.

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