Reviews

Breaking the Rules of Time Travel: A Film Review of Celine Sciamma’s Petite Maman

Film by CÉLINE SCIAMMA

Review by HANNAH GERSEN

cover of petite maman. shows two girls hugging each other

Petite Maman, Céline Sciamma’s fifth feature-length film, following 2019’s critically acclaimed Portrait of a Lady on Fire, is a time travel story that reminded me of one of my favorite movies from childhood: Back to the Future. Aesthetically, the two have very little in common—one is an art house movie with unknown child actors, the other a somewhat goofy studio feature starring Michael J. Fox—but at the narrative core of both films is a deep psychological wish that many children harbor: to know their parents when they were younger. In Back to the Future, a teenage Marty McFly accidentally travels back in time to meet his parents at the beginning of their high school romance. In Petite Maman, eight-year-old Nelly stumbles into a kind of woodland passageway through which she can visit her mother’s childhood and play with her mother as an eight-year-old girl. In this alternate reality, Nelly also interacts with her maternal grandmother who, in Nelly’s present-day timeline, has recently passed away. 

Breaking the Rules of Time Travel: A Film Review of Celine Sciamma’s Petite Maman
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Friday Reads: April 2022

Curated by ELLY HONG

Here at The Common, our incisive volunteer readers are the first to review fiction and nonfiction submissions to the magazine. In this month’s round of Friday Reads, they recommend three exciting new works of speculative fiction.

Friday Reads: April 2022
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A Memorandum of My Several Senses: Chloe Honum’s The Lantern Room

Reviewed by REBECCA GAYLE HOWELL

Lantern Room cover

On a Sabbath day in 1855, Emily Dickinson wrote a letter to her dear one, Mrs. Holland. Mrs. Holland was the poet’s chosen sister, a mentor and friend in gardening and recipes, householding and womanhood. They were correspondents for more than 30 years, sharing their litanies of living a life. This particular letter concerned the disorienting process of moving house. The Dickinson family was returning to their homeplace. It was the house where Emily was born and it would be the house where she died. But in that moment, having lived fifteen years elsewhere, she felt pillaged and lost, a kind of expat from her country of knowns.

A Memorandum of My Several Senses: Chloe Honum’s The Lantern Room
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Friday Reads: March 2022

Curated by ELLY HONG

This month’s round of Friday Reads features two unforgettable collections of short fiction recommended by the TC team. Read on for a sparkling exploration of sapphic love, and dark tales where Japanese folklore is given new life.

Recommendations: Amora by Natalia Borges Polesso, translated by Julia Sanches and Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone by Sequoia Nagamatsu

Friday Reads: March 2022
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Through a Pink Cloud, Darkly: A Review of Iuli Gerbase’s The Pink Cloud

Film by IULI GERBASE

Review by HANNAH GERSEN

Cover of The Pink Cloud

A title card at the beginning of Iuli Gerbase’s debut feature, The Pink Cloud, informs viewers that its screenplay was written in 2017, and that it was filmed in 2019. What follows is a movie so in tune with the events and moods of 2020 that you would be forgiven for finding this level of prescience impossible to believe. The premise is simple: a toxic pink cloud formation suddenly appears in the sky. Its vapors are deadly, killing people after ten seconds. With only a few minutes of warning, an unnamed Brazilian city is locked down. People are ordered to go indoors immediately; if they are not at home, they are to go into the nearest building, whether it’s a bakery, a grocery store, or the apartment complex they happened to be passing by. Giovana and Yago, the couple at the center of the movie, are on the balcony of Giovana’s apartment when they hear the news, recovering after a late night of partying. We quickly learn that they don’t know each other well; they are waking up from a one-night stand that has been extended indefinitely.

Through a Pink Cloud, Darkly: A Review of Iuli Gerbase’s The Pink Cloud
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Friday Reads: February 2022

Curated by ELLY HONG

This round of Friday Reads features recommendations from three of our online contributors: Carolyn Oliver, author of “Magic Mile;” Rajosik Mitra, author of “Cockroach;” and Jennifer Shyue, translator of “The Eclipse” and author of “Mother’s Tongue.” Their recommendations include two stunning poetry collections and a graphic novel classic.

Recommendations: Pigeon by Karen Solie, The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, and The Science of Departures by Adalber Salas Hernández, translated by Robin Myers

Friday Reads: February 2022
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Friday Reads: January 2022

Curated by ELLY HONG

This round of Friday Reads features recommendations from two of our online contributors: Jane McCafferty, author of “These Winters in Pittsburgh are Making Us Strong,” and Emma Ferguson, translator of poetry by Esther Ramón. The memoirs they recommend provide a window into the lives of two dynamic and extraordinary women.

Recommendations: I AM I AM I AM: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell and What You Have Heard Is True by Carolyn Forché

Friday Reads: January 2022
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Review: What Isn’t Remembered by Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry

Story collection by KRISTINA GORCHEVA-NEWBERRY

Review by JULIA LICHTBLAU

Cover Page for What Isn't Remembered, by Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry. The book cover has a scene of a lighthouse near the water, with a blocky and colorful art style.

There are two Russias in Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry’s passionate and accomplished debut short-story collection, What Isn’t Remembered, winner of the 2021 Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize. The geographical country, where many of the stories take place, and the mental state of Russianness, which characters carry with them in the diaspora. There is also America, an alluring, often disappointing exile—and there are Americans, mostly well-meaning, who struggle to live with their mercurial Russian lovers, spouses, friends, or children, whose Russianness comprises the psychic ramifications of political and historical traumas going back multiple generations—World War II, Soviet rule, the chaotic break-up of the USSR, or the Armenian genocide, to name a few.

Review: What Isn’t Remembered by Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry
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Friday Reads: December 2021

Curated by ELLY HONG

For our December round of Friday Reads, we spoke to two of our contributors from Issue 22. Read on for recommendations that strike a unique balance between comedy and tragedy.

Recommendations: Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu, The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel, and Dark Lies the Island by Kevin Barry

Friday Reads: December 2021
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