The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio (a movie review)

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Quick Summary: Evelyn Ryan is a mother of ten children living in Defiance, Ohio in the 1950’s. It was a time where mothers stayed home to care for the family, dinner on the table ready for when the husband came home, and jingle after jingle on the television offering prizes for your contribution. Married to a man who means well but spend his paycheck on alcohol before bills, Evelyn uses her wit and skills to keep the family going by winning various contests from TV ads and magazine clippings. Back in the day when you actually had to write something clever instead of being a random chance winner, Evelyn uses it to express her creativity and lack of freedom at home. When times get rougher then normal she must try to keep her family together, her home intact, and always with a smile on her face.

So this movie was a little more serious than I was expecting, but nonetheless I enjoyed it quite a bit. Based off a true story written by a daughter of Evelyn, this film shows how one woman keeps it together through good and bad. Being at home with the ten kids, not knowing how to drive, and having strict finances, the mother doesn’t get to express herself with others or have time to be creative. The contests, which range from winning twenty dollars to an entire car, have helped keep the family afloat for years. Using her writing skills and upbeat attitude, it seems like there isn’t a contest she couldn’t win.

Going deeper, the film shows the up and downs of the family relationships and well as social norms for the time. An example being Kelly her husband. He once had dreams and plans, but due to a car accident wasn’t able to realize them. Battling with depression and alcoholism, he wants to support his family yet is unable to due to his shortcomings. This brings on financial hardship since he is the sole working person in the family.We often see the strain that he has with himself, with his children, and with his wife. The two address themselves as Mother and Father, no pet names, no first names. It feels almost sterile in a way. Evelyn seems to almost be living in a world of her own, going through the motions, trying to take care of the whole family the best way she can, always looking on the lighter side of life.

It is a story of a woman’s struggles in her marriage, in society, and in family. Yet with the right jingle and entry contest, she can make it another day.

(I fear I may have rambled a bit with this review. It has been a while since I’ve done one, my skill are rusty!)

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Rosemary & Thyme (BBC Tv Series)

[credit: amazon.com]

[credit: amazon.com]

Quick Summary: Rosemary Boxer is a plant pathologist for a University who also has a passion for gardening. Laura Thyme is an ex constable who retired and enjoys gardening at home which she got from her farming childhood. Meeting by chance to due the sudden death of Laura’s friend while Rosemary is working on the property, the two come together to solve the shady results of the mans passing. Becoming quick friends through the shared love of gardening (as well as Laura’s divorce and Rosemary’s sacking from the University) the two women start their own horticultural business. They tend to the gardens of many, as well as solving murders along the way.

So the summary isn’t all the best I know but it is a bit difficult to describe the show without giving away details of episodes! I happened across this by change while browsing Netflix for something new and different. I often forget how much I love British television, and this only shows that truth.

Both women have wonderful and diverse personalities, and I love the fact that they’re older independent women as well. They actually look and act like real people instead of too beautiful and too dramatic. Rosemary is the more fiery of the two women. Never married or had children, her life has been about her work with some relationships on the side, and she has no problem stating this. For her marriage and children are for some but not all, and she has no regrets about her choice in the matter while still leaving a possibility open for love still. This helped her get her Doctorate in college with a vast amount of knowledge of all types of plants, soils, and arbors. Often she mentions the Latin name with other side facts like medicinal purposes or how it’s edible only in certain safe ways. I would have to say she is a bit more hot headed of the two and is more likely to barge in and ask direct questions. Laura was married, now divorced, with two grown children. Often she pulls on knowledge and skills from her days in the Constable like memorizing license plates easily or how to work with detectives on cases without rising suspicion. Her farming childhood also has helped with such things as tools or gardening tricks that schooled Rosemary hadn’t ever come across. Laura is a bit more on the planning and cautious side, perhaps due to her former job and raising kids. I only mentioned children and family for both women, not because they’re super focused on it or important, but they come into play off and on with each side like Laura’s son who is in the Force.

Both women have quick wits, wonderful senses of humor, and the wisdom and appreciation for things that can only come with age. They don’t go out of their way to find murders and incidents, they just have the poor luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When it does come up they can’t let it go, through morals of wanting to find the bad person, curiosity as to what and why, and in certain occasions because they can’t finish their landscaping till it’s solved which means no pay!

Even though you know something is going to pop up with each episode, it doesn’t feel boring or cut and paste. They often travel all over England and sometimes to other countries, dealing with various types of people from a boarding school to a historical agricultural sight. You meet former friends and colleagues who help them along the way, a bit of romance here and there, as well as each of the women growing and dealing with what life has thrown at them.

I once heard it referenced as “Murder She Wrote with Gardening and British Accents”. I never really watched MSW, but I know enough to see why they’d make the comparison. Like mysteries? Quirky humor? Gardening? BBC? Then I’d give this a shot. Sadly it only has 3 seasons and looks as if it may have had more planned but fell through. I was able to watch it in full on Netflix, but unsure of how long it will be on there.

rating: 9/10