Persuasion on Netflix | Movie Review

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*Disclaimer: I’ve read “Persuasion” by Jane Austen but am much more familiar with the 2007 adaptation starring Rupert Penry-Jones and Sally Hawkins. Just assume that’s what I’m referencing during the entirety of this review. This story has been around since 1817, but I’m still issuing a warning. There will be book spoilers as well as 2022 movie spoilers. SPOILERS AHEAD! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!

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After feeling immense disappointment over the official trailer, I was prepared to hate this movie with not a trace of positivity in sight. To my credit, I gave it a fair chance and actually liked some elements in the first sixty-eight minutes. The scenery was beautiful, and most of the acting performances were a pleasant surprise. Suddenly, Anne Elliot squatted in the woods to relieve herself, and I was done. My good opinion once lost is lost forever, and boy oh boy was it lost.

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The cast as a whole is satisfactory, so much so that they deserve to be listed one by one. Richard E. Grant and Yolanda Kettle are unbearably snobby as Sir Walter Elliot and his daughter Elizabeth, and Nikki Amuka-Bird’s Lady Russell is an endearing mother figure to Anne, despite her lapse in judgement regarding Frederick. Lydia Rose Bewley doesn’t have much screen time as Penelope Clay, but she did a good job with what she was given. Ben Bailey as Charles Musgrove is an attentive father and a husband with the patience of a saint. Mia McKenna-Bruce did a darn good job as Mary Elliot Musgrove, bringing a youthful spin and humor to a role made so hilarious by Amanda Hale in 2007. Izuka Hoyle and Nia Towle are the picture of beauty as Henrietta and Louisa Musgrove, young and wild and free; I was expecting them to be a bit sillier, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. 

Continuing with the cast, Edward Bluemel is fine as Captain Harville but overshadowed by Captain Wentworth’s other best friend. Afolabi Alli is incredibly sweet as Captain Benwick, making the most of very little screen time. When we first meet him, he looks like a lost little boy while mourning the loss of his fiancé; in the end, he finds love again and is the picture of unadulterated happiness. He’s an absolute teddy bear, and that interpretation works for me. I was scared to see Henry Golding as the “villain,” but he took the bull by the horns as Mr. William Elliot. He was so despicable that I found myself hating him, which I didn’t think possible, while also applauding the performance. I am, however, still wishing upon a Jane Austen star that we see him as the dashing love interest one day, someday, soon. Please make it happen somebody, anybody!

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I apologize to Austen enthusiasts who are familiar with this story, but I’m going to recap for those who aren’t. “Persuasion” is a romance based on reconciliation. Once upon a time, Anne and Frederick were young and in love, but she allowed her family to persuade her that a wealthier man would be a more suitable husband. Seven years later, Frederick returns to town as a naval captain with status and money but still very much heartbroken and angry. Anne is also nursing a broken heart, regretful over the life-changing decision she made; she bears the sting of Frederick’s coldness as penance, believing he will forever hate her and rightfully so. They start to find themselves in each other’s company constantly, and the discomfort slowly melts away. When their tension reaches a point just beyond agony, a new beginning is right around the corner. Down the street actually. Wink wink!

Let’s look at the leading pair, starting with Cosmo Jarvis as Captain Frederick Wentworth. The writing and portrayal of this character was not well done. Frederick wasn’t angry enough; he’s supposed to be bitter and soften little by little as he witnesses how Anne’s embraced her own mind and opinions. Yes, he’s still in love with her, but he fights those feelings and hides them behind a cold exterior. This version of Frederick was soft around the edges from the beginning, right on the border of being an awkward, “cinnamon roll” character. Dare I say the term “wishy-washy” comes to mind! I’ll add that I didn’t like the accent used for this performance. At times it felt off, like an impression of a posh gentlemen rather than the voice of an austere naval captain.

Dakota Johnson’s portrayal of Anne Elliot was better than expected. She did well with the humor and breaking of the fourth wall. My favorite acting moment of hers was the bathtub scene. Anne thinks Wentworth is engaged so she’s sobbing over losing her first and only love for a second time. As someone who’s experienced similar heartbreak, that moment was uncomfortably authentic. Shifting to the cons, I didn’t like the way Anne was written. She reminded me too much of Lizzie McGuire, clumsy and shouting out random nonsense in uncomfortable situations. Also, she consumes a lot of alcohol; I don’t want to sound snobby, but that’s not a trait I would’ve chosen for this character. Don’t make me mention the moment by the tree again! Injecting bleach into my brain won’t be enough to scrub that traumatic image from my memory. The modern dialogue was present but not heavily featured which made it stand out even more. They should’ve gone all in or scrapped it because I almost stopped watching due to secondhand embarrassment. Let me lay out what I was expecting: Anne’s father and sisters are greedy and needy so she spends a lot of time caretaking and completing the adult tasks no one else will touch. In her late twenties, she’s considered an old maid and nothing special to look at, an underappreciated wallflower despite her kindness and sense of responsibility. The 2022 version of Miss Elliot is conventionally pretty and missing a dose of maturity therefore she’s not as recognizable as she should be.

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The writing woes don’t stop there! I felt zero chemistry between the leads, exacerbated by unnecessary changes to their love story. Anne and Frederick have a heart-to-heart conversation halfway through the movie and put aside their differences to be friends, squashing any and all tension leading to their romantic reconciliation. Tension to the point of agony is the bread and butter of “Persuasion,” and Netflix made a huge mistake messing with that. The ending is the cherry on top of this warm, melted sundae. Instead of giving every branch of the story it’s moment to shine, everything is crammed into one scene. The “Lyme group” reunites, and while Anne talks to Captain Harville, Frederick writes his classic letter, staring at the back of her head and eavesdropping on the conversation. Cringey with a capital ‘C’! When she turns around and finds him gone, she walks over to the table, discovers his letter, and runs after him. She sees Mr. Elliot making out with Penelope Clay and wishes them happiness, an absolutely bonkers moment considering that level of affection while unwed is extremely inappropriate in Austen times, and Anne had yet to answer William’s proposal from two scenes prior. Don’t blink because you’ll miss her finding and kissing Wentworth. Yes, that is indeed how fast everything wraps up. As if there weren’t enough idiotic changes, the film ends with Miss Clay and Mr. Elliot’s wedding because who the heck wants to see the leads get married onscreen. Since they were so set on showing the wedding of two side characters, I would’ve rather seen Captain Benwick and Louisa’s ceremony because I actually cared about their chemistry and happy ending. At least Anne and Frederick share a lovely moment on the beach before the credits roll, the best chemistry out of one hour and forty-seven minutes.

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I’m proud of myself for giving this movie a chance because initially I was going to ignore it. A few elements were a pleasant surprise, but this will not be a new addition to my Jane Austen rotation. Thank you for reading all seven of my opinionated paragraphs, and shout out to my besties Katie and Traci for ranting with me before I started writing my review. This has been quite the experience. Now I’m going to cleanse my palate with a rewatch of the 2007 adaptation. Rupert and Sally are still the gold standard! ❤️

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– Lauren Michele ❤️

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Dawsey + Juliet

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Good morning! Rise and shine and drink some coffee because I’m about to drop many, many words for your reading pleasure. 🌞 I recently picked up “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Shaffer. Say that title ten times fast! This is the official synopsis:

“It’s 1946 and author Juliet Ashton can’t think what to write next. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – by chance, he’s acquired a book that once belonged to her – and, spurred on by their mutual love of reading, they begin a correspondence. When Dawsey reveals that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, her curiosity is piqued and it’s not long before she begins to hear from other members. As letters fly back and forth with stories of life in Guernsey under the German Occupation, Juliet soon realizes that the society is every bit as extraordinary as its name.”  – Goodreads

I didn’t know exactly when I bought this book until recently when I remembered showing it in a thrift store book haul on my YouTube channel in July 2018. I talk about it starting at 3:20.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxQoU0GFdWU

My local library is small, and the volunteer-run used bookstore is even smaller, literally the size of a walk-in closet. In 2018 the library underwent renovations, and the bookstore temporarily moved to an empty store in that same shopping center, which actually provided room to display more books . I was dying to visit so my mom and I checked it out during one of our used bookstore adventures. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” was one of six books I picked up that day. It caught my eye because I knew about the upcoming Netflix movie. I paid one dollar for a hardcover edition in brand new condition. Funny story: The cashier told me she didn’t enjoy the book. Why would you tell a customer that?? She did deter me a little bit, but I’m glad I didn’t give up. It sat on my shelf for two years. The premise interested me, but every time I looked at it, I was never in the right mood to open it and begin. It’s worth noting that the realistic style of the book cover is not my usual taste, which may have contributed to my hesitation; this colorful version of the cover is more up my alley. Fast forward to The Reading Rush in July 2020. One of the reading challenges was “Read a book set on a continent other than the one you live on.” I wasn’t feeling any of my choices until I opened my bureau and saw “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” sitting on my small, brown bookshelf. I decided that was the time to dive in and give it a fair shot. To start, I was very distracted and couldn’t concentrate for more than a few pages at a time. But once I focused and really immersed myself in the story, I was hooked. I almost stayed up overnight to finish it but ultimately took the smart route and finished it in two days. It received 5 stars and became one of my favorite books. SUCCESS! 😍

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Now that we’ve discussed the book, let’s talk about the Netflix adaptation. Unlike many other bookworms, I’m always up for a film version. I’d seen the two lead actors Lily James & Michiel Huisman in clips and pictures so I knew they had chemistry. Even if the movie ended up being terrible, I already shipped them as Dawsey and Juliet. If you haven’t seen the movie, feel free to watch the trailer below before moving on to my review.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vP9eDmX0ow0

*Note: First you’re going to read my notes that ignore the bigger plot points involving Juliet’s relationship with Mark. Don’t worry! I’m going to end with all the juicy details and tell you how the story ends.  😉  I’m going to indicate all the MAJOR SPOILERS, but please be aware that anything I write could potentially be a SPOILER. Read at your own risk!  ⚠️

•  The book is all about pen pals, and the story is told through letters. That format works when the consumer is reading it, but as a visual medium, the film had to be different. There are still a few letters mentioned and read aloud but only that of Dawsey and Juliet in the very beginning of the movie. There are no written words exchanged between Juliet and her friends or the other members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; all their interactions take place in-person. Actually, Juliet’s only friend that made the transition from book to movie is Sidney. For time purposes, I can understand why the film focuses more on the society members.

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•  I like the addition of Juliet’s landlord Mrs. Burns as a character. She adds a bit of humor as well as motherly attention. She seems to be uptight at first, complaining about the loud sound of Juliet on her typewriter. However, she’s the first person to express concern over Juliet’s mood after her return from Guernsey. Her face when she hears Juliet typing again is so sweet.

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•  For the most part, all the society members are as they should be. Dawsey is my new book boyfriend so my feelings about him are fairly obvious.  🥰  Eben is a sweetheart, and his grandson Ei is his mini me. Elizabeth McKenna is the go-getter in the group, the one with courage to stand up to the nazis. Isola Pribby is an adult version of Luna Lovegood, and I dare you to not love her. It’s impossible! Amelia is the character whose portrayal shocked me because she’s so cold at first. I’m not sure if this is the reason why, but Jane is her daughter in the movie, not Eben’s daughter. Elizabeth was Jane’s best friend and a second daughter to Amelia so Amelia’s protective of anything belonging to Elizabeth including the society. It’s worth noting that Eben could’ve been cold in the book for that same reason, but he wasn’t. I understand that she lost her husband, daughter, and Elizabeth during the war; that is a horrible burden for anyone to bear. I’m still not a fan of that creative choice, but Amelia is much more like her book self once she warms up to Juliet so that smooths out some of the edges for me.

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•  After the society is formed, there are clips of each member reading books in different spots on the island. In the midst of World War II & nazi occupation, those stories were their escape. That scene gave me chills and reminded me just how valuable books are.

•  Charlotte Stimple, the woman who gives Juliet a room for rent, is an awful person, similar to Patricia Hamilton’s portrayal of Rachel Lynde but without the redeeming qualities. Her name is different in the movie, the original being Adelaide Addison, but her personality is exactly as it should be. Horrible and wicked!

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•  I will discuss this in detail later. For now all you need to know is that Mark proposed to Juliet before she left for Guernsey, and she said yes. After she is on the island, Juliet has an interesting phone conversation with her friend and publisher Sidney about the proposal. His hesitation to congratulate her implies that he isn’t convinced Mark is the man for her. It feels like a nod to Sidney’s letters in the book disapproving of Mark and teasing Juliet about her constant mention of Dawsey. I appreciate that the film included this detail, even if the letters were combined into one phone conversation.

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•  Juliet’s reaction to Kit being half German is a great talking point. Most non-German Europeans during WWII had a fear of nazi hatred, in this case a fear of it being genetic. Despite that fear, the society raised Kit, and Juliet grew to love her like a daughter. The nazis were a manmade group of extremists who did not and do not represent the ethnically German people. Their army was filled with soldiers groomed from a young age to view certain groups of people with hatred and wipe them out. There’s a saying that kids aren’t born with hate in their heart, it’s taught to them. This is a prime example, sick and twisted and something to ponder.

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•  The conversation about Christian’s death between Amelia and Juliet is though-provoking. Amelia comments that his death is just like that of her husband; they both drowned at sea. There are two sides to every war, but in death all men are the same.

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•  I love the scene when Juliet puts Charlotte in her place after catching her snooping around her rented room. I also love that she leaves and becomes Isola’s housemate because it gives us a closer look at their budding friendship. During their first night as roomies, Isola inquires about Mark’s reading habits. Juliet never answers because Mr. Playboy doesn’t share her passion for books. Another ❌for Mark and another ✔️for Dawsey!

•  The scene in Dawsey’s bedroom is HOT, and that sounds incredibly inappropriate unless you watch the scene. The intimacy and chemistry is scalding without them even touching one another. I already need a drink of cold water! 🥵

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O18EdP3ziQw

*Note: Those blue pieces of paper inside the book are Juliet’s letters to Dawsey. HE SAVED EVERY SINGLE ONE OF HER LETTERS! I’M YELLING BECAUSE THAT’S INCREDIBLY ROMANTIC!!  💌

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•  When Eli was evacuated off the island, Elizabeth gave him her father’s Great War medal, saying it would give him courage. When Dawsey has to tell Kit that her mom is dead, Eli gives him the medal. It can read as a gift of courage for Dawsey or Kit; either way that gesture is too precious! 😭

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•  Let’s add this to the list of reasons why I hate Mark Reynolds: He stops Juliet from comforting Amelia when the society finds out about Elizabeth’s death. I know he doesn’t have a relationship with the society, but he lacks empathy, as though he is above and they are beneath.  😡

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•  You know what’s incredibly beautiful? Dawsey immediately understanding Juliet’s hidden message to him in her letter to the society with her manuscript about their book club. The message references their conversation in the bar when she tells him that his letters made her sense she’d met someone who already understood her. GET MARRIED ALREADY!

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The biggest issues I had with the film adaptation were the changes made to Juliet & Mark’s relationship. The book timeline is as follows: Juliet is charmed by Mark, and he eventually proposes. She doesn’t accept right away, leaving for Guernsey to meet the literary society. She connects with the island and people and never seems like she’s planning to leave. Mark grows impatient waiting for her and travels to Guernsey. His arrogance is the final straw, and she ends their relationship. Through the misadventures of amateur detective Isola, Juliet finds out that Dawsey reciprocates her love and proposes to him. “Would you like to marry me? . . . I’m in love with you, so I thought I’d ask.” Sweet, precious, adorable Dawsey answers “My God, yes!” and proceeds to sprain his ankle climbing down the ladder he was on. Juliet writes of her upcoming wedding to Sidney, ending with a hilarious postscript about good old Ms. Adelaide Addison: “P.S. I ran into Adelaide Addison in St. Peter Port today. By way of congratulations, she said ‘I hear you and that pig-farmer are going to regularize your connection. Praise the Lord!'”  😂 😂 😂

This is the movie timeline: Everything is the same until Mark proposes in front of the boat headed to Guernsey, and Juliet says yes. Just like the book, she’s enchanted by the island and people. However, she rents a room, and her stay feels temporary. Mark is annoyed by her absence and makes the trip to Guernsey. They have a fight, but she sticks by her answer to his marriage proposal. She accompanies him back to London with no implication that she’s coming back. The goodbye is very emotional, and it weighs her down. Not long after they arrive back home, she gives back the ring and ends their relationship. She plans to return to Guernsey but runs into Dawsey at the dock. He made the trip to tell her how he feels. Before he can get very far, she proposes, and he accepts, both using the same beautiful dialogue from the book. They return to Guernsey, get married, and live happily ever after.

The movie timeline isn’t terrible, but it removes aspects of the book that I love. Obviously Juliet knew very little about Dawsey’s age and appearance with only letters as reference, but I think their correspondence fed her doubts about Mark being her soulmate. She never says yes to his marriage proposal because she never wants to say yes. Mark’s attitude on Guernsey is the last straw. He doesn’t care about why she’s there or what she’s writing about. He’s annoyed by little Kit’s presence and arrogantly assumes Juliet wants to be his wife. She rejects him once and for all, telling him she never wants to se him again. She describes herself as free!

I don’t like that “movie Juliet” goes along with the Mark charade for so long, even leaving Guernsey for him. Definitely not a positive for me, but not a dealbreaker either. The proposal in the book would’ve been adorable onscreen, but the dock proposal isn’t a horrible replacement. Mark proposed to Juliet on the dock before she left for Guernsey, and then Juliet proposed to Dawsey on that same dock where she was boarding a boat to go back to Guernsey. I love that parallel! Almost all is forgiven by me thanks to the final scene. Juliet is seen walking out of the cottage once owned by Elizabeth McKenna, her wedding ring just visible. She walks over and lies down beside Dawsey who’s reading a Charles Lamb book to Kit, Lamb being the author of the book that put Juliet’s address in his hands. The ensuing hand choreography and looks of true love are MAGIC. One of the best endings to a period romance film! 😍

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•  I read a review that pointed out the differences between Mark and Dawsey, and I love the contrast (I really wish I had saved the blog name). This is a mix of the previously mentioned blog post and my own thoughts: Mark filled Juliet’s apartment building with flowers. When he visited Guernsey, he brought a bouquet from London and mentioned that Guernsey needed a proper florist. RUDE! Dawsey gave her a small, purple bouquet picked from the side of an island road the first time they met. Life with Mark is a constant string of evening parties, lots of drinking and dancing. Life with Dawsey is days of laughter while playing with Kit and tending pigs; don’t forget about the books! Mark proposes with an engagement ring the size of a boulder which Juliet is hesitant to wear while walking around Guernsey. Dawsey proposes with a simple wedding band which is absolutely stunning in the final scene because the newlyweds look so in love, and that is more than enough for Juliet. I’m sure there’s more to be compared between the two, but you get the picture. *sigh* Perfection!

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•  At the end of the movie, the credits roll while audio clips from a society meeting play. I love hearing those now familiar voices read aloud from books and debate characters and plot points. Dawsey and Juliet are a beautiful part of the book and film, but the literary society is the true heart of the story. If they hadn’t formed, Dawsey would’ve never found the Charles Lamb book. If he’d never found the Charles Lamb book, he would’ve never acquired Juliet’s address and written that first letter. Without that first letter, Juliet would’ve never known about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Without knowing about the society, she would’ve never traveled to Guernsey to meet all of them, Dawsey included, in person. That was the best way to end the movie, listening to the society members do what they do best: Talk about books!

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📖  Let’s go back to what I said earlier: I paid one dollar for a hardcover edition of “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” in brand new condition. I opened the book two years later, & it became a new favorite. What books give readers is priceless! 📚 

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Subscribe to my blog to receive email notifications, and check out my other links listed below.

– Lauren Michele ❤

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Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

I have waited all year for this movie! Part of my birthday celebration was seeing the first showing at my local theater. As a passionate Agatha Christie fan, I have thoughts both good and bad so settle in for a semi-bumpy Orient Express ride.

Many people had doubts about Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of beloved detective Hercule Poirot. If you’re a doubter, I want to put your mind at ease. Mr. Branagh is hands down the best part of the movie. He kept the spirit of the Poirot we all know and love while adding humor and his own unique touch to the character. He is a constant source of smiles and laughs, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Overall the ensemble cast did not disappoint. Johnny Depp is fantastic as always (SPOILER) even though his part is short-lived. Michelle Pfeiffer and Penelope Cruz have some shining moments, and Dame Judi Dench’s monologue about little Daisy Armstrong made me tear up. Lucy Boynton and Sergei Polunin’s respective portrayals of Count & Countess Andrenyi are dark, a hidden gem that is impressive considering their inexperience. Josh Gad was good for the most part, but the chase scene involving Poirot felt awkward. The conflict between Hercule and Dr. Arbuthnot also felt clumsy. Daisy Ridley acted well, but I did not like Mary Debenham’s demeanor. In the book, she is polite and reserved which leads Poirot to suspect she might be the mastermind behind the murder; his suspicion makes little sense in the movie because Mary is much too bright and happy.

The book’s methodical layout is not perfectly suited for a movie. Some may find the added action irritating, but I understand the necessity to shake up the format onscreen. That being said, some of the clues got lost in the shuffle due to a speedier pace. As far as I remember, all the clues from the book were included, but they weren’t given the time they needed to simmer and encourage the audience to consider possible outcomes. Perhaps the extra, non-book stuff could’ve been trimmed to accommodate character interviews and clue discoveries, making the final reveal much more grand than it actually was. I also want to mention that I don’t remember Biniamino Marquez being named at the end. (SPOILER) The twist relies on the shock of twelve people being involved, each with a specific connection to the Armstrong family. The cast may seem large, but those who know the story well won’t miss anything, even if only one name is passed over. This goes back to details being muddled at the end. Murder on the Orient Express is one of the greatest stories ever written in the mystery genre. If you don’t lay it out correctly, you spoil the thrill and fun of the twists and turns.

I love two-thirds of the movie, but the ending is a disappointment. Things can surely get better from here so I hope Kenneth Branagh is giving the chance to continue the series, perhaps with a book that has less adaptations. I truly believe he can do great things with Poirot. The final scene hints at a sequel based on Death on the Nile. How great would that be?! 😄

🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boSSSZpAkyw&t=25s

🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂

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– Lauren Michele ❤︎

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