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As always, we have an eclectic mix of reviews for you this month, but they all have something in common: confessions. Two are from the dead, divulging secrets that change the families they leave behind. The other is from a man who is dying, who knows he is dying, and is trying to make a connection before he goes. There, however, the similarity ends. As Evelyn’s review of The Whale will show, the film is a poignant portrait of a life lived in regret. Sahar’s review deals with last wishes, and my review is a family in chaos (hilariously and sometimes gruesomely so). Let’s get started.

Evelyn Infante

I recently watched The Whale, starring Brendan Fraser, who won an Oscar for his outstanding role. Although many people know he portrays a morbidly obese man, I think images of his body might have put some off and, as a result, chose not to watch the film. However, this story has much more than what meets the eye.

The Whale starts with Charlie (played by Brendan Fraser) giving a lecture to his writing class via Zoom. However, his video is dark, and only the students can be seen on the TV screen. After the lecture, you get a glimpse of Charlie’s life. He is connected to an oxygen tank, and he is suffering from obesity, grief, regret, and depression. Sadly, some people might judge him for his appearance and blame him for his condition. But as you delve deeper into the story, you cannot help but empathize with him. Charlie is a recluse who knows that if people see him, they will look at him with disgust. His only visitor is Liz, played by Hong Chau. She is a compassionate woman who takes care of him, provides him with food, ensures he takes his medication, and helps him with his walker. Despite Charlie’s situation, Liz genuinely cares for him and even snuggles up to him while they watch TV together.

In one scene Charlie, who appears to be suffering from a heart attack, desperately grasps a piece of paper and with labored breath starts reciting lines from Melville’s Moby Dick. It may seem ironic, but as the story progresses, we are introduced to Ellie, Charlie’s daughter, whom he abandoned as a child to be with the man he loves. Ellie happens to be the author of the crumpled piece of paper that Charlie holds dear. His daughter is struggling academically and taking out her frustration on everyone, including her mother. Charlie offers to bribe Ellie to assist her in improving her writing skills. But Ellie is bent on torturing her father, who endures his daughter’s abusive behavior without objecting because he is eager to repair their relationship.

Watching the movie you know Charlie is dying and as each facet of his life is revealed, you find yourself aching for him and how hard he tries to reach his daughter. The powerful closing scene made my chest hurt and my tears flow.

Sahar Abdulaziz

“One man’s fight to survive the past and leave nothing to fate.”

I’ve been in a writing funk lately. As a result, I find myself doing a lot more mind-numbing scrolling and reading. One morning, one of my daughters (she has a sick sense of humor like her mother) sent me a video of a radio station taking a phone call from Bill Edgars, who went on to explain to the host that he is The Coffin Confessor.

A what?

A Coffin Confessor. I know, I know. I wasn’t sure what that was either. Still, Mr. Edgars, this ‘unique professional,’ explained in hilarious detail how he delivers the last wish of those in the midst of dying or folks who are great pre-planners and want their last requests spoken at their funerals so they can RIP.

For example, Edgar’s first client.

Edgar first met Graham in his capacity as a private investigator. While he lay dying, Graham contacted Edgar to check into his finances. Graham had a sneaky suspicion his accountant was dipping into the business till way too deep and stealing from him. Once that case was resolved, Graham revealed to Edgar in passing that he’d like to write his own eulogy. He wanted the opportunity to get in his last two cents, allowing him to express what really mattered to him.

“Why don’t you do that?” Edgars, then strictly a PI, asked him. “Film a video and get them to run it at the service.”

Graham didn’t like that idea. “I know they would never run it,” he told Edgar. “Someone would decide it was too confronting for my family and friends, and they’d be afraid of insulting those left behind. There’s no point.”

“I could always do it for you,” Edgars joked. “Crash your funeral and deliver the eulogy that you really want.”

The two men shared a chuckle, shook hands, and said their goodbye. Edgars didn’t give their conversation another thought until Graham phoned him again a few weeks later, but this time with a serious request.

“I’ve been thinking,” Graham explained. “I’m going to take you up on that offer.”

“What offer?”

“I want you to crash my funeral. Interrupt the service and read out the message I’m going to write for you.”

“Are you serious?” asked Edgars, taken aback. He had, after all, only been joking.

“Dead serious. And I’m going to pay you ten grand to do it.”

“That’s a lot of money.”

“There’s a lot I want to say,” agreed Graham. “You see, there’s something I want revealed at my funeral. My best mate, John, is insisting on giving the eulogy.”

“So? What’s wrong with that?”

“He’s also trying to screw my wife.”

And that, folks, is how it all began!

Sometimes, these last requests come in the form of revealing a buried secret. At other times, these messages can take on the form of love, appreciation, apology, and even hate and revenge. As a man on a mission, Edgars does everything he can to follow through on each request as promised, even when confronting estranged families, outlaw bikers, outed cheaters, liars, and the most beloved and cherished. 

Intrigued, I purchased the book immediately after the interview and waited impatiently for it to arrive, hoping it would be at my doorstep before I left for vacation. It was, and I read it on my balcony while traversing the Atlantic Ocean.

I admit that I thoroughly and unequivocally enjoyed this unique book. The concept and subject matter were vastly different from anything I have ever encountered in memoirs thus far. There were light moments and heartbreaking revelations. At times, I laughed, while at others, I groaned and teared up. You see, Mr. Edgar’s childhood had been fraught with abuse and homelessness, and he didn’t hesitate to share with his readers how his past experiences, as horrific as many were, helped shape him into the man, husband, and father he is today.

Most of all, this book and its many thought-provoking stories spoke to survival, loyalty, salvation, and the precarious, often awkward relationship many of us have with life and death. It is a reminder that death is inevitable, but how we approach it is our choice, even if we let someone else deliver the message.

Kelly Jensen

My love affair with Guy Ritchie started with Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and I have seen every film he’s made since. I haven’t adored all of them, but I’ve really liked most of them–enough so that I will jump into anything attached to his name without reading the synopsis. I pretty much know I’m in for a good time. So when Netflix posted a new series based on his film The Gentlemen, I leaped without looking–and had an absolute blast.

The premise is simple: A certain duke dies, and when his children gather for the reading of the will, the first son is passed over so that the second son will receive both the title and everything that comes with it, including secrets buried not all that deeply beneath the stables: a thriving weed farm administrated by a savvy young woman named Susie Glass. Dear old Dad had a deal with the Glass family to the tune of several million dollars a year–money that was being used for the upkeep of the vast estate.

Edward, the new duke, is considered something of a straight edge, however. Until recently, he’s been serving as a United Nations peacekeeping officer. Not exactly your average criminal for hire. And he’s fairly sure he doesn’t want a weed farm under his stables. The thing is, the harder he strives to pick this burr out of his impeccable tweed, the deeper it burrows… and while he’s doing all of that picking, he discovers he has quite the aptitude for all of this criminal stuff.

Every episode is laugh-out-loud funny, but the show isn’t all crime and caper. unsubtle statements about the British aristocracy fold into nearly every line, and the cast delivers their roles to perfection–especially Theo James, who was born to play the Duke of Halstead. As an actor, and while inhabiting his character, he never flinches, which is key to the comedy, the action, and the social commentary.

The Gentlemen has been confirmed for Season 2 and I can’t wait.

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