Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Regency Love," a Brilliantly-Conceived Interactive Game, Motivates Players to Keep Coming Back

Jane Austen's birthday, December 16th, is the release date of "Regency Love," an interactive storytelling iPhone game set in the Regency era created by Samantha Lin, Jenny Tan, and Melody Wang of Tea for Three Studios

My twin sister, Jennifer Emily Fiore - a filmmaker/arts, entertainment, and media consultant - had the privilege of previewing the game before its release as a "test player."  Here is her review of the game:

"Regency Love"
By: Jennifer Emily Fiore
Filmmaker/Arts, Entertainment, and Media Consultant


"Regency Love" is a brilliantly-conceived and authentic re-imagining of the Regency era, the time in early 19th-century England when King George III was proclaimed unfit to rule and his son, the Prince of Wales, ruled as his proxy as Prince Regent.  The period was known for influential trends in British architecture, literature, fashion, politics, and culture.  But, more than this, it is an interactive game that pays homage to Jane Austen as the towering author of that period through engaging reflections of various aspects of her work, such as the famous discussion of what constitutes an "accomplished lady" (a tribute to her iconic novel, Pride and Prejudice).  The game's exquisite artistic details, true-to-life settings, and memorable dialogue keep the player intellectually engaged and delightfully entertained. 



The player can select which character identity they want to assume and how that character would respond in different situations.  The character's ability to interact with the other townspeople introduces the player to the town, as well as to the various plot lines and relationships.

The game also offers helpful instructions and clues. The player discovers what character traits are the most prominent in their personalities.  Adding to the fun are Trivia Questions about Regency Societal Conventions that, if answered correctly, earn points that unlock additional characters of the story.  The player can also earn other advantages, such as becoming more and more "accomplished."

"Regency Love" captures and holds the imagination. In true Jane Austen fashion, the game's excellent storytelling, beautiful artwork and settings, well-drawn characters, constant interaction, intriguing plot lines, skillful dialogue, and humor, contribute to its successful creation of a believable alternate reality that will motivate players to keep coming back. 

"Regency Love" Teaser Trailer: 

For more from Tea for Three Studios and about "Regency Love," visit the following website pages:

Official "Regency Love" Facebook Page:

Tea for Three Studios Webpage:

Tea for Three Studios Twitter Page:

Tea for Three Studios Tumblr Page:

Tea for Three Studios Facebook Page:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lionhearted Heroines in Literature, T.V., & Film: Selfless Soul-Sisters

These 19 "Lionhearted Heroines" in Literature, Television, and Film embody the steadfast selflessness described in W.H. Auden's poem, "The More Loving One": 

As such, they are everything I aspire to be...but can never hope to live up to!!

*For BEX on her 19th Birthday...this Tribute is dedicated to you and the quintessential Lionhearted Girl who inspired this post:

BULLET (Bex Taylor-Klaus)
T.V. Series: AMC's "The Killing" Season 3 (2013)


"You know why I got *Faith* on here? Because no one's got it in me but me."



*Bex Taylor-Klaus on the strength and beauty of her character, Bullet, which carries a universal truth for us all:

Yes, I am a straight girl who plays a gay character on TV. No, I am not ashamed. The point of Bullet is not that she is gay. There is so much to her and I look up to the strength and determination this girl has. I get the beautiful opportunity to play a character I can admire and learn from on a daily basis. Bullet knows who she is and can accept herself for it all, even if others can't or won't. ...Not everybody is that strong. My biggest worry is that people will look at her and just see a gay kid, when that's truly only a tiny piece of Bullet's puzzle. Look at the big picture. People are a medley of different things and that is what makes us so interesting. Don't lose sight of the beauty just because you see one thing you may find ugly.
To adapt Bex's opening line:
Yes, I am a straight girl who has been besotted with Bullet (and the brilliant girl who plays her) from the moment she pulls her best friend, Kallie, from the ledge of a Seattle Bridge following the opening credits of the first episode. 

Like Bex herself, I am not ashamed to adore Bullet.  As Detective Stephen Holder (played by the endearing Joel Kinnaman) remarks when he first meets her, she's "pretty unforgettable" -- a description that captures her lasting impact on him and on all those she seeks to protect.  Indeed, Holder and Bullet get past their initial mistrust of each other to form one of the most beautiful friendships, fraught with angst and tenderness, ever portrayed onscreen.  The two are, in many ways, twin souls who struggle to appear tough even when they are broken. Together, they embody Aristotle's quote about true friendship: "A friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies."  When Holder loses Bullet, he is more devastated than we have ever seen him -- as if he has lost part of himself.  In his moment of intense grief over her death, Holder becomes the conduit for the audience's overwhelming sadness as we share in his mourning of her.
Holder (Joel Kinnaman) & Bullet (Bex T-K) embrace
Video Chronicle of Holder & Bullet's Friendship

In the end, with identical stubbornness, the two betray each other -- Bullet, desperate, telling a lie that inadvertently compromises the investigation, and Holder, enraged, turning an icy cold shoulder to the girl he once sought to help - obstinately refusing to answer the phone when she urgently calls him later that night.  This, of course, turns out to be a fatal mistake, which ensures Holder's imminent down spiral once he discovers Bullet's body butchered in the trunk of the killer's car.  
But, Bullet would not have been as "unforgettable" had it not been for the incomparable Bex Taylor-Klaus, who blazes in each scene -- truthfully portraying Bullet's fierce yet compassionate courage and faith. We'll be hard-pressed to find another T.V. performance by a young breakout actress that quite matches what Bex accomplishes as Bullet. Bex so completely embodies Bullet that when she is found dead, it is as though a real-life person -- a best friend, a sister, a daughter --  has been lost.  Through her performance, Bex makes the audience, even those who initially find her bravado somewhat off-putting, come to care deeply and passionately about a lesbian street girl (she suffers a heartbreaking unrequited love for a young prostitute named Lyric) whose apparent impenetrable toughness hides a selfless, vulnerable spirit.  In a recently published ARTS-ATL article, Bex articulates her profound understanding of Bullet:

"As an actor, you're given a character as a kind of shell and it's your job to breathe life into it. Bullet's the one who breathed life into me...I knew everything she wanted to do when she grew up. I knew who she was, who she wanted to be, and then I watched it all get taken away."


Bex Introduces Bullet

One of the greatest demonstrations of Bex's astounding ability to translate her understanding of Bullet for the audience occurs in Episode 3 during a beautifully shot two-scene sequence that captures the aftermath of Bullet's rape.  In a heartwrenching moment, Bullet's full inner beauty emerges even as she is at her lowest point, when she stares at her reflection in a bathroom mirror, examining the fresh, bloody wounds the rape has inflicted.  Bex brilliantly captures Bullet's fractured self in that moment, revealing fear, devastation, disgust, humiliation, and rage through her eyes and facial expressions.  These emotions that she has never before felt so acutely ignite her burning resolve to save her best friend, so when Holder chases after her on the bridge later that day, she buries her fear and mistrust and tells him about that "nobody, nothing pimp" named Goldie.  Later on in the episode, when Holder fails to apprehend Goldie, Bullet bravely and forcefully tells him off, and when he confronts her about whether Goldie has "done something to" her, she answers only with an instruction to "do your job" and "find her (Kallie)." Once again, Bex is superb -- naturally conveying Bullet's selfless devotion to her friend, even in the midst of the biggest crisis she has ever experienced.    
Bullet never does get the chance to tell Holder, or anyone else, about what Goldie did to her -- nor does she get the chance to tell Holder what she found out from the girl at the train station about the identity of the killer.  Her life is ended so suddenly and cruelly that she leaves behind her a bitter trail of unanswered questions that could never be resolved satisfactorily in the wake of her death. It is these answered questions, combined with the magnitude of Bullet's -- and by extension Bex's -- potential (her intelligence, her kindness and compassion, her acceptance, her longing, and her grace) that we mourn mightily as the case stalls toward a resolution.  Reaction to Bullet's death, and the absence of Bex in the role, was swift and heartfelt.  Even though I could not paint a portrait, as many other talented fans did to remember and honor Bullet, I shed more tears for Bullet than I have since my father's death when I was 8 years old.  She became like a sister to me, as Bex did in the role.  I loved her...I still miss her...and I will never forget her.  And, by her own eloquent admission, neither will Bex, who encapsulates our collective sorrow, but pays tribute to Bullet's faith:
"I saw a woman with a similar haircut—an older woman with the haircut and similar style and it made me smile at first like ‘Oh look – Bullet when she grows up.’ And then all of a sudden I was standing in the street and it hit me...the realization that that’s not ever going to be what Bullet gets to do. Some people are saying how much she’s meant to them, they’re sad she’s gone and I’m saying she’s not. If she really meant that much to you, keep her alive inside of you. She’ll always be there. Keep her in your heart, whatever poeticness you’d like to put on it, whatever poetic words you want to put to it—keep her alive inside of you. She’s always be there. She always has. She’s a really strong character and strong, strong person. Even though she’s dead on the show or in the ‘real world,’ she doesn’t have to be dead inside. If she did really have an affect on you, she will always be with you.”  





The other 18 "Lionhearted Heroines" that follow continue to span the last 19 years - in descending chronology - to commemorate Bex's 19th birthday.  They each echo Bullet's spirit in their own unique ways - possessing faith, valuing friendship, and experiencing unrequited love or loving and expecting nothing in return -- as portrayed by the "perfectly imperfect" actresses who embody them. 

STEPHANIE (Marion Cotillard)
Film: "Rust & Bone" directed by Jacques Audiard (2012)

"What am I for you? A friend, a pal? If we continue, we have to do it right."
As the trailer (included below) suggests, this remarkable French film centers around a vagrant boxer, his young son, and a gorgeous woman who enters their lives under the most unlikely circumstances. The magnificent Marion Cotillard was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Stephanie, a tough, assertive, orca trainer who courageously struggles to rebuild her life after a horrific accident. 

Like Bullet, Stephanie's tough shell cocoons a sensitive soul, one that is gravely tested after her accident.  What is so touching about Stephanie - like Bullet - is her spirited strength and resilience in the face of a reality that most people could not survive.  Even as she deals with her own daunting demons and defies overwhelming odds, she is selfless in her availability to others -- in her willingness to share her heart and spirit with those around her.  She forges a beautiful bond with Alain and his son and, like her devotion to the orcas, loves them unconditionally even though Alain rejects, marginalizes, and uses her.  When the bond she feels toward Alain matures into romantic love, she fearlessly reveals her feelings honestly, telling him: "If we continue, we have to do this right."  Just as she asserts herself to Alain, she regains her desire to resume orca training - and in a silent scene (below), recites her training routine for the first time on the balcony of her apartment. Here, Marion Cotillard invests Stephanie with the outward demeanor of a woman completely at peace with her fate and effortlessly exudes an inner spiritual strength that is heightened all the more by Katy Perry's inspired song, "Firework":   

*"Rust & Bone" and Marion Cotillard's performance as Stephanie take on an added resonance with the release of this year's incomparable documentary, "Blackfish," which chronicles the appalling treatment of orcas and their trainers at SeaWorld:

SYBIL (Jessica Brown-Findlay)
T.V. Series: PBS Masterpiece's "Downton Abbey" Seasons  1-3 (2011-2013)

"I can't just stand by while others give their lives."

In this sprawling and superb beloved BBC series, young actress Jessica Brown-Findlay (a former trained ballet dancer who began acting after a career-ending knee injury) shines as the vivaciously independent, strong-minded, and free-spirited Sybil, who fights with fervor for women's suffrage and offers her services as a nurse when World War 1 breaks out in England.  Her passion for political causes is equaled only by her slow-burning love for Tom Branson, an young Irish chauffeur who introduces her to a more complicated world beyond the gilded gates of her family's estate.  Once she enters this world, she cannot go back to the way things were before, and her strength of character holds firm despite difficult social and familial circumstances.  


Sybil is a great "soul-sister" to Bullet in her innate desire to help and protect others, despite what it costs her.  Sybil's fate is also akin to the unjust tragedy that befalls Bullet when her powers of protection reach their limit.  Like Bullet, Sybil can no longer protect herself -- but the legacy of her life is preserved in all she leaves behind.   

HUSHPUPPY (Quvenzhane Wallis)
Film: "Beasts of the Southern Wild" directed by Benh Zeitlin (2012)

"When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me lying around in invisible pieces.  When I look too hard, it goes away.  And when it all goes quiet, I see they are right here.  I see that I'm a little piece in a big, big universe.  And that makes things right.  When I die, the scientists of the future, they're gonna find it all...they're gonna know: Once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her Daddy in the Bathtub." 

During a pivotal scene in "Beasts of the Southern Wild," a spiritual journey of survival, Quvenzhane Wallis as "Hushpuppy" summons her entire miniature being to shout: "I'M THE MAN!" when Hushpuppy's father challenges her in a dual-like shouting match.  Only 6 years old at the time of filming, tiny Quvenzhane is much more than her claim to "man-hood" -- she is a force of nature who packs a punch that won't soon be forgotten.  She embodies a little firecracker of a girl with a big desire to see and understand the world around her.   

 Hushpuppy lives a destitute, virtually parentless existence in the Louisiana bayou, a place she calls "the Bathtub," with an alcoholic and, at times, abusive father and an assortment of local wild pets. Like Bullet, she is a "street-kid" - inhabiting the "streets" of the bayou and taking shelter in dilapidated shacks - who, despite seemingly hopeless circumstances, embraces the world as a beautiful place and makes a home amongst the animals and plants that afford her shelter and comfort.  Even with the threat of a massive storm - what would become the devastating Hurricane Katrina - closing in on them, she never loses sight of the shoreline toward a bright future where people will "find it all" and "know" that she lived there.        


TIFFANY (Jennifer Lawrence)
Film: "Silver Linings Playbook" directed by David O. Russell (2012)

"...There will always be a part of me that is dirty and sloppy, but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself.  I can forgive.  Can you say the same for yourself, Fucker.  Can you forgive?  Are you capable of that?"

The naturally aloof, mysterious, yet generous Jennifer Lawrence hit it out of the ball-park with her Academy Award-winning turn as "Tiffany," a recently-widowed young woman on a quest for human connection and belonging.  When Tiffany literally "runs into" Pat (Bradley Cooper), a mentally-unstable man obsessed with reclaiming his former marriage, she falls head-over-heals for him instantly and offers to coach him in a new endeavor.  Despite her somewhat hard and brash exterior, she thinks about and feels things acutely -- and her determination to "read the signs" and bring Pat out of his shell is at once funny, frustrating, and, for her, heartbreaking as her feelings for him deepen.    


While not a street-kid nor a lesbian (well, apart from several trysts with female office co-workers as she recounts in this clip), Tiffany shares Bullet's scrappy resolve to survive in a world that doesn't appreciate or accept difference. Also like Bullet, despite her insecurities, she embraces her flaws and stalwartly refuses to apologize for them. She's not afraid to put herself out there, make a fool of herself, or fail. In this sense, like Bullet, she's the epitome of courage and heroism.


JANE (Mia Wasikowska)
Film: "Jane Eyre" directed by Cary Fukunaga (2011)


"Am I a machine without feelings?  Do you think that because I am poor, plain, obscure, and little - that I am soulless and heartless?  I have as much soul as you, and full as much heart."

In this bold new vision of Charlotte Bronte's timeless classic about an orphan girl starved for love and in search of a family, Mia Wasikowska, who -- like Bex -- was 18-years-old at the time of filming, brings a youthful, intelligent, and heroic sensibility to the role of the plain, saintly Jane Eyre.  Opposite Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester, Mia naturally holds her own during intensely kinetic moments when this brooding older man made bitter by the misfortunes of life and love, challenges her steadfast moral convictions and sense of self-worth.  Having only read the novel for the first time several months prior to the start of shooting, Mia's love for the character manifests itself in how much she respects the role which shines through her indelible performance. 

Jane Eyre is arguably one of the most beautifully conceived characters ever written.  What makes her so special and rare is her innate sense of self-worth and self-respect despite a succession of physically and verbally abusive situations in which she is told repeatedly by the people who are supposed to love her the most that she is not worthy or deserving of being loved. It is this inherent bravery and heart that tie her with Bullet in a profound and almost identical manner.  She is also a strong soul-sister to Bullet in her long-suffering, seemingly unrequited love for a man who is forbidden to her because of a described "mere conventional impediment." And, as soon as that love is finally realized in a brief period of pure bliss for Jane, it is just as abruptly and brutally taken away -- as it is so cruelly for Bullet when Lyric rejects her.  Still, sharing Bullet's faith, Jane never gives up the hope that she will one day be free to love and be loved as she always dreamed.  

HERMOINE (Emma Watson)
Film: "Harry Potter" Parts 1-8 (2001-2011)


"Actually, I'm highly logical which allows me to look past extraneous detail and perceive clearly that which others overlook."

Emma Watson, who won the coveted role of Hermione Granger in J.K. Rowling's beloved series at the tender age of 9 and continued in the role until the series concluded when she was 19 - Bex's age - is perfect to play Hermione because she IS Hermione.  She embodies Hermione's keen intelligence, studious nature, wit, logic, and foresight.  She is so naturally Hermione that many Harry Potter fans see her as the wonderful character in real life. Emma's success in the role also stems from her ease at befriending the boys who are Hermione's best friends while, in the same breath, holding her own opposite them.  Using her signature intelligence and foresight, she is quick to call out her male mates whenever she witnesses them doing, or about to do, something idiotic. This no-nonsense strength in her performance is akin to how Bex portrays the tough, no-nonsense Bullet. Both are unforgettable and able to keep those close to them "under their thumb," to evocate Bullet's expression. 

However, while Hermione can wittily outsmart her male comrades during critical situations and events, she is unable to outsmart her own heart, which is nearly broken from her painful, seeming unrequited love for Ron.  Being the clueless fool he sometimes is, Ron has no notion of Hermione's affections and insensitively flaunts his relationship with another Hogwarts classmate in front of her until he tires of that relationship and that girl. During a poignant scene in "The Half-Blood Prince, " Hermione confides her broken heart to Harry who, as her best friend, is a prime witness to her silent suffering over Ron's obvious lack of interest in her.  Hermione's suffering recalls Bullet's nearly identical silent suffering over her unrequited love for Lyric, which she, too, confides to her best friend, Callie.     

AMY (Claire Foy)
T.V. Series: PBS Masterpiece's "Little Dorrit" (2008)

"Near the palace was a cottage in which lived a poor, little, tiny woman -- all alone.  She realized that for all of her gold and silver and diamonds and rubies, she had nothing so precious to her as that shadow was to that tiny woman." 

Charles Dickens gave us a precious gift with his lesser known, yet eerily foreseeing novel Little Dorrit which was adapted into an award-winning 15 part BBC miniseries by Andrew Davies in 2008.  The novel, and its sprawling adaptation, tells the story of  the incandescent "little" Amy Dorrit, a tiny 18-year-old girl who has come-of-age devotedly caring for her widowed father, a 20-year inmate at the Marshalsea Prison for Debt.  Although nearly 10 years older than Amy when she won the role, Claire Foy's performance cannot at all be described as "little" by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, she seems to understand and empathize so profoundly with Amy that it is as if she and her character are one in the same.  In a press interview during the miniseries release, Claire describes in vivid terms just how highly she regards Amy:

"Nobody is or can be as selfless as Amy is at all -- people give to charity and people do all these noble things, but they don't possess the pureness of heart in the doing of these actions that Amy demonstrates in the numerous sacrifices of her everyday life."

Would that Amy could have known Bullet...


Just as Bullet devotes herself to protecting her vulnerable and abused street family, Amy Dorrit sacrifices her entire life for her unjustly imprisoned father and his family.  While being hounded by an escaped murderer who threatens to reveal potentially devastating family secrets, she contracts herself as a seamstress to an elderly, wheelchair-confined woman named Mrs. Clenham, through which she is introduced to Arthur Clenham -- the employer's generous and benevolent son. It is this meeting that opens Amy's eyes to a world beyond the barred prison gates where she dreams of winning Arthur's affections.  And even though she forms a close friendship with him, all hopes she has for a shared future with him are dashed when she discovers -- as Bullet does -- that he has feelings for someone else.  Indeed, the entire story itself can be seen as a web of unrequited affections: Amy's unreturned and unappreciated devotion to her abusive father and her unrequited infatuation with Arthur Clenham; Arthur's spurned love for his mother and for a wealthy village girl who is engaged to a reckless and vain chap; the heartbreaking love and loyalty of Amy's childhood friend who dreams of marrying her himself.  It isn't until she is forced to leave the confines of the prison where she grew up that she gathers the courage to stand up for her heart and refute the perception that she is simply a "little woman" with no voice of her own.      

*The character of Amy Dorrit was based upon and inspired by Charles Dickens's real-life muse Ellen "Nelly" Ternan, an 18-year-old stage actress with whom Dickens fell in love during his later years.  Their little-known affair is chronicled in a new Sony Classics feature film entitled "The Invisible Woman" starring another rising young actress (yet 11 years older than the girl she is portraying), Felicity Jones opposite Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens.  The film is due to be released in December 2013:

ASHLEY (Amy Adams)
Film: "Junebug" directed by Phil Morrison (2005)


"God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way."

In this independent feature depicting a dysfunctional Southern church-going family living in an provincial and isolated Southern Church-going community in North Carolina, Amy Adams is a ray of sunshine as "Ashley" a seemingly na├»ve, bright-eyed, bubbly yet sensitive young woman on the verge of motherhood.  Like Bex as Bullet, Amy delivers a bravura performance that infiltrates hearts and minds, stealing the limelight from more known and seasoned actors. She was deservedly nominated for an Academy Award, although her incandescent portrayal transcends the simple "Supporting" Actress category. Indeed, from the first scene to the last, she casts a spell that makes us believe Ashley is the central character just as Bex's onscreen presence as Bullet becomes the heart of The Killing.     

The pivotal scene of the film comes when Ashley breaks down in the hospital -- and Amy's powerful gift as an actress is laid bare. In this heart-wrenching moment, she makes a young mother's grief so naturally palpable and devastating.  The "inexplicable" bond she shares with Alessandro Nivola, who plays her brother-in-law, recalls the cosmic connection Bullet shares with Holder, particularly echoing the moment he comforts her as she accepts that Kallie is most likely dead. Here, too, Ashley - with the help of her friend - must accept news of a devastating death.  And, while she is overcome by intense grief and anger, she does not let it take root in her heart -- and, like Bullet, ultimately demonstrates unwavering faith, positivity, and unconditional love and selflessness towards others. In a largely cynical world where most would succumb to despair rather than embrace hope, Ashley - like Bullet - demonstrates a rare, precious, and admirable resilience of spirit. 

JUNE (Reese Witherspoon)
Film: "Walk the Line" directed by James Mangold (2005)

"No, I'm not an angel.  I had a friend who needed help.  You're my friend.  You're not nothin'.  You're a good man, and God has given you a second chance to make things right, John.  This is your chance, honey."

Marking a career that has flourished since early childhood, Reese Witherspoon finally garnered a well-deserved Academy award for her embodiment of June Carter-Cash opposite Joaquin Phoenix in the title role of Johnny Cash.  Together, the two create a "ring of fire" as an on-screen couple - so blazing that it often seems as though they were made for each in real life, too.  Reese channels June's well-crafted sense of humor and vivaciousness that masks the disappointment and heartache she feels from being "left like a dutch boy with his finger in the damn" by a chain of unworthy men. She naturally exudes June's "angelic" generosity of spirit - even during dark moments in her own life - and her no-nonsense strength and resilience, most notably demonstrated in her repeated rejections of Johnny's disrespectful and self-destructive "stunts." All this Reese accomplishes while also learning how to sing and play musical instruments to convincingly re-enact the musical performances and shows that June shares with Johnny.  

Akin to Bullet, June Carter is a woman "on fire" - admirable for every aspect of herself.  She is the very epitome of "a friend" - selfless, loyal, loving, honest, and completely devoted to Johnny's addiction recovery -- freely forgiving the many times he hurts or neglects her in return. Her patience and fortitude is unmatched as she bears the cross of the tumultuous, unsanctioned, yet unbreakable bond she possesses with her tour-mate in a saintly manner. During a memorable scene, June is in a car with John and the rest of their male band-mates, including Jerry Lee Lewis, who has had a bit too much booze. In his drunken stupor, he proclaims: "We're all going to hell for the songs we sing!" June asks: "What about me, Jerry Lee? Am I going to hell." And Jerry Lee responds: "No June, you're beautiful."  

GIORGIA (Jasmine Trinca)
T.V. Series: "The Best of Youth" (Italian: "La Meglio Gioventu") directed by Marco Tullio Giordana (2005)

In this multi-generational, epic Italian miniseries, Jasmine Trinca - a Natalie Wood-esque Roman actress - delivers a sensitive, stand-out performance as "Giorgia," a young girl struggling with mental illness and the neglect that comes from the stigma of her condition, especially in 1960's Italy.  Since Giorgia is a girl who cannot speak, or who speaks very little because she lives inside of herself, Jasmine - like Bex - reveals much of the girl's vulnerable and heartbroken inner life simply through the haunting expressiveness and penetrating beauty of her intelligent, sad eyes - as in this pivotal scene:

Giorgia & Matteo at the Jukebox
Giorgia's largely tragic journey in this miniseries mirror the trials Bullet endures in The Killing. Like Bullet, Georgia is an outcast from society, alienated from her family and left to the merciless, unloving environment of a home for wayward and discarded youths.  When Matteo, a handsome, young medical student volunteers at the home and is assigned to care for her, she is awakened for a time to the possibility of being loved and accepted by another human being who seeks to understand her.  She falls for him, but when circumstances separate them, she sinks into the darkest time in her young life. 
IVY (Bryce Dallas-Howard)
Film: "The Village" directed by M. Night Shyamalan (2004)

"Sometimes we don't do things we want to do so that others will not know we want to do them."

Bryce Dallas Howard carries a serene beauty and tomboyish self-confidence as "Ivy Walker," the blind yet insightful daughter of the town "elder" played by William Hurt in M. Night Shyamalan's spiritual thriller. Akin to Bex, Bryce makes an indelible mark in her debut role through the power of her onscreen presence and the expressiveness of her unforgettable face.  She invests Ivy with a rare appreciation for life, for those who are outcasts within the isolated town that is all she's ever seen of the world, and for the people she cares for the most.  Juxtaposed with her uninhibited serenity, Bryce also manages to emanate Ivy's overwhelming curiosity to explore the world beyond the confines of the town where she has grown up. She constantly seeks the truth and doesn't allow her blindness to prevent her from seeking complete illumination. When a senseless crime grips the utopian community and endangers the life of Ivy's beloved, she embarks on a harrowing journey to conquer "those we don't speak of" once and for all.  In portraying her heroine's journey, Bryce balances the opposing traits of fear & bravery, revenge & forgiveness, despair & hope -- all the while never losing sight of Ivy's abiding faith, echoing the way Bullet describes her faith to Sarah Linden in The Killing. 
Like Bullet, Ivy - a girl who "longs to do boy things" is left to pick up the pieces after her best friend, a village boy named Lucius Hunt who loves her, is brutally harmed.  Before the attack, Lucius is painfully reticent to articulate his true feelings to Ivy - and he won't even touch her for fear it might reveal his infatuation.  She immediately picks up on this, and in her wonderfully bold and straightforward manner, confronts him about his suppressed love. What spurs the confrontation, however, is an event that tests the courage of the heroine and her fellow townspeople, most especially Lucius who, at last, confesses to her that: "The only time I feel fear as others do is when I think of you in harm." At the peak of the danger, when everyone else is hiding safe in basements, Ivy bravely stands at the entrance of the cabin with her hand outstretched, holding onto the faith that Lucius will finally take her hand in his at the perfect moment.  


ALICE (Hilary Swank)
T.V. Movie: HBO's Iron-Jawed Angels (2004)


"You asked me to explain myself. I just wonder what needs to be explained? Look into your own heart. I swear to you, mine's no different.  You want a place in the trades and professions where you can earn your own bread? So do I. You want some means of self-expression? Some way of satisfying your own personal ambitions? So do I. You want a voice in the government in which you live? So do I. What is there to explain?"

Hilary Swank is outstanding - as she always is in these types of roles - as Alice Paul, the Pennsylvania-raised, Swarthmore-educated, Quaker who leads the movement to secure suffrage for women in the early 1900's.  The actress bares all both physically and emotionally with a striking authenticity as the bold, brave, selfless, and almost-martyred woman who becomes the willing scapegoat for all of the hatred and abuse thrown at the women during their cause for suffrage. Hilary's intelligent eyes and eager yet patient smile, as shown in the above photo, are captivating even in the midst of the heroine's great suffering, mistreatment, and adversity.   

Alice, like Bullet, lives up to her name -- she is every bit the "Iron-Jawed Angel" the public dubs her to be: a Christ-like figure who possesses an unflinching determination to see her cause through without resorting to violent or illegal, unethical means.  She knowingly sacrifices an opportunity for a happy romantic relationship in the service of her cause, and when she is thrown in prison for picketing the office of the President during wartime, she remains undeterred in her conviction that women deserve to be treated equally before the law.  She solicits the solidarity of her sisters-in-arms, including a prominent Senator's wife, to embark on a hunger strike, modeled after an old Irish tradition, until restitution is made and her goal is achieved. It is during this hunger strike that the women endure unconstitutional and unthinkable abuse which almost results in her death -- along with countless others dedicated to the cause.    

PAIKEA (Keisha Castle-Hughes)
Film: "Whale Rider" directed by Niki Caro (2002)


"My name is Paikea Apirana, and I come from a long line of chiefs stretching all the way back to the whale rider. I'm not a prophet, but I know that our people will keep going forward, all together, with all of our strength."

Keisha Castle-Hughes, 13 years old at the time of filming, is one of the youngest actresses to ever have earned an Academy Award nomination for her breathtaking performance as "Paikea", the sensitive yet determined Maori girl who shares a special connection with and understanding of the whales that figure so prominently in the ancient legends of her tribe's ancestors in New Zealand. Keisha's soulful eyes and calm, spiritual presence juxtaposed with her portrayal of Paikea's fiery resolve against seemingly insurmountable family and cultural obstacles make viewers long to adopt this precious child - just as many fans of The Killing dreamed of adopting Bex as a daughter, sister, or best friend.  Keisha's onscreen relationship with the actor who plays her grandfather recalls Bex's onscreen relationship with Joel Kinnaman in the sense that it is at once loving, intense, tumultuous, and heartbreaking as the two wrestle with each other over their character's conflicting desires.    

No where is the power of this onscreen relationship more palpable than in the film's most emotional scene where Paikea delivers a heart-wrenching tribute to her absent grandfather who doesn't approve of girls displaying themselves in public arenas. Stuck in the old ways of his tribe and married to ancient traditions and customs, Paikea's grandfather deeply resents the fact that the Gods saw fit to give him a female grandchild, while his grandson - Paikea's twin brother - died shortly after his birth.  In her speech dedicated to him, Paikea acknowledges and explains her grandfather's traditional views and offers her full and free forgiveness to him, even though he she is devastated by the fact that he deliberately and humiliatingly does not show up for her performance.  It isn't until the tribe's entire future is threatened that the grandfather begins to recognize and accept Paikea's special gifts.  As in Bullet's case, Paikea is alienated by the one person whom she puts her trust and faith in, and just as soon as that faith has a hope of being recovered, Paikea's life is endangered in an act of bravery and sacrifice.   

JAMIE (Mandy Moore)
Film: "A Walk to Remember" directed by Adam Shankman (2002)

"It's like the wind...I can't see it, but I feel it."

Although not reaching the award-worthy caliber of performance that Bex brings to Bullet, nor the caliber of many of the actresses portraying the other 18 Lionhearted Heroines, singer-actress Mandy Moore is impressively understated, natural, and sensitive as Jamie Sullivan, a high school senior who is, according to Landon Carter (the film's protagonist), "self-exiled" from the popular crowd and bullied by them.  That is, until Landon, played intelligently and memorably by Shane West, recognizes her inner beauty and publically declares his faith in her.  Mandy's performance is made more impactful through her pairing with West -- the two are perfect together and play off one another with ease and genuine affection.  Mandy is herself in the role - a caring, giving girl with a big heart and a gentle countenance.  She embodies what we all strive to be: selfless, unpretentious, honest, strong, loyal, invested with integrity and that ever-elusive faith that Bex's Bullet defines for Sarah Linden in "The Killing."   


Since the film effectively places us - the audience - in the perspective of Landon as he comes to know Jamie, we witness first-hand and intimately how he comes to fall in love with her. By extension, we fall in love with her, too. And we fall in love with Landon who transforms from a bully/tormentor into a troubled young man searching for his own identity and recognizing in her everything he would like to be. Despite his cruelty towards her, Jamie forgives him and willingly offers her friendship which, at first, he takes for granted. When he succumbs to peer pressure and dismisses her in public, she swiftly and courageously puts him in his place saying, "Landon, look, I thought I saw something in you -- something good, but I was very wrong." This instance of tough love which she steadfastly carries through until he admits his failing (shown in the scene below), motivates him to want to "be better" and shows him that, despite her cold words, she "has faith in him [me] too."
DANIELLE (Drew Barrymore)
Film: "Ever After" directed by Andy Tennant (1998)

"You have everything, and still the world holds no joy -- and yet you insist on making fun of those who would see it for its possibilities."

Drew Barrymore is a splendid ray of sunshine as "Danielle De Barbarac," an intelligent and strong-willed girl in 16th century France whose world is turned upside down after her father dies suddenly of a heart attack when she is eight years old.  Forced to relinquish all traces of her aristocratic heritage to an evil stepmother (Angelic Houston) and her two materialistic and envious daughters (although one of the sisters is actually a kind, giving soul) when she is orphaned, Danielle suffers years of hardship and mistreatment with no light at the end of the dark tunnel until she unintentionally meets the Prince of France, Henry, played by Scottish actor Dougray Scott. Despite being American, Drew Barrymore manages to make herself convincing in the role opposite a mostly British cast through her nearly flawless diction and delivery of Danielle's often stingingly clever lines.  As an actress who endured deep family strife in her youth, it is evident in how she captures Danielle's indomitable spirit that Barrymore innately understands the emotional depths of her character.  Her most impressive moments in the portrayal occur when she is depicting Danielle's tumultuous and heart wrenching interactions with her tormenting stepmother.  And then when she transitions to sharing her passionate vision of the world, and her place in it, with the Prince. 

Although we know that, unlike Bullet's story, Danielle's story will have a "happily ever after" ending since it is the "Cinderella" fairytale, when this ending does finally manifest, it is as sweet and fulfilling as if we didn't know how it would end at all.  This is because, as we did with Bullet through her unjust trials, we come to regard Danielle as if she were our own sister, best friend, or close family member.  We witness first-hand how much it costs Danielle to bear the unloving, abusive environment that she is thrust into, and how through it all -- just as with Bullet -- Danielle retains her innocence, purity of spirit, and her love for and faith in human kind.  
ELLIE (Jodie Foster)
Film: "Contact" directed by Robert Zemekis (1997)

"For as long as I can remember, I've been searching for something...some reason why we're here. What are we doing here? Who are we? If this is a chance to find out even just a little part of that answer, then I think it's worth a human life. Don't you?"

In one of the most emotionally brave and nuanced performances of her career, Jodie Foster is transcendent as Ellie Arroway, a driven scientist who, haunted by her father's sudden death when she was eight, faces an existential crisis that sends her on a spiritual journey beyond the realm of normal human experience.  Foster's complete command of her character's physicality, voice, countenance, and vast knowledge about the make-up of the universe makes Ellie a formidable force to be reckoned with as she vies with scientific pundits and religious scholars about the potential for other life forms in the solar system. Foster is adept at balancing Ellie's skepticism about religious notions of the existence of God with her unwavering conviction that life inhabits other planets besides our own. As she tells some school children in a science class: "If it is just us in the universe, that would be an awful waste of space."  


What ultimately endears us to Ellie, much like Bullet, is her stubborn insistence to always question and seek answers, despite the staunch discouragement of others and her own self-doubts. Her insatiable quest for enlightenment overcomes her skepticism and, during a near-death experience, she is forced to reckon with her own spirituality and faith.  When called before a scientific committee to give her testimony about the enigmatic experience and challenged to admit that "all things being equal, the simplest explanation tends to be the right one," she is humble and self-effacing in her assertion that "none of us are alone."  

ELINOR (Emma Thompson)
Film: "Sense and Sensibility directed by Ang Lee (1995)


"What do you know of my heart? For weeks, Marianne, I've had this pressing on me without being at liberty to speak of it to a single creature. It was forced on me by the very person whose prior claims ruined all my hope. I have endured her exaltations again and again whilst knowing myself to be divided from Edward forever. Believe me, Marianne, had I not been bound to silence, I could have provided proof enough of a broken heart even for you."

Emma Thompson deservedly received double critical praise for writing this intelligent adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel in which she simultaneously portrays the eldest Dashwood sister, Elinor, who endures months of heartache at the loss of her father and her suitor, Edward, with an almost saint-like poise and dignity.  Apart from her formidable acting history and training, Thompson's brilliance in this role stems from her striking ability to balance comedy and tragedy, humor and melancholy, joy and suffering, contentment and grief -- just as Bex does so movingly in her role as Bullet in The Killing.    

Unlike her overly-zealous sister, Marianne (incandescently portrayed by then 18- year-old Kate Winslet), Elinor does not make a show of her feelings. Instead, she sensibly and selflessly chooses not to burden others with her heartache - just as Bullet endeavors to keep her unrequited love for Lyric and her suffering at the hands of Goldie to herself.  Elinor's contained emotions at times appears cold to those close to her, especially to her sister who criticizes her repeatedly for her seeming emotional indifference. However, as Marianne painfully learns, Elinor's saintly discretion proves the wiser and more loving countenance...and in good and perfect time, Elinor is finally free to reveal the sentiments she holds so dear to her heart.   

BETH (Claire Danes)
Film: "Little Women" directed by Gillian Armstrong (1994)

"If God wants me with Him, there is none who will stop Him. I don't mind. I was never like the rest of you - making plans about the great things I'd do. I never saw myself as anything much. Not a great writer like you. Oh, Jo, I've missed you so. Why does everyone want to go away? I love being home. But, I don't like being left behind. Now I am the one going ahead. I am not afraid. I can be brave like you. But, I know I shall be homesick for you, even in Heaven."

Then just 14-years-old, Claire Danes brought an incomparable spiritual wisdom and tranquil maturity to the sweet, shy, and beloved Beth March, akin to what Bex brings to the equally beloved Bullet.  Like Bex, Danes is natural and unpretentious in her portrayal -- rare virtues for two teenage actresses whose remarkable artistic gifts (Danes was also a pianist, Bex is also a poet) transcend their tender years.
Claire Danes' remarkable acting gifts are on full display in perhaps one of the most moving scenes in all of film history when Beth, weakened by the remnants of scarlet fever which she contracts from visiting a poor family, tragically dies.  Knowing that death is upon her, Beth proclaims: "I am not afraid. I can be brave like you. But, I know I shall be homesick for you, even in Heaven."  She is, of course, telling this to her sister, Jo, with whom she was close throughout her brief life. In this intimate moment between them, Beth reveals her abiding faith, much like Bullet does in her intimate moment with Sara Linden in the car. She asserts her faith in God saying, "If God wants me with him, there is none who will stop him," and her faith in her sister's bright future, predicting that she will become "a great writer."  Although Beth's death is difficult and heart-wrenching to watch, there is a certain serenity that accompanies the last moments of her life which is in no way present when Bullet's body is found in the trunk. Also, how Bullet was discovered robbed Bex of the opportunity Danes had to demonstrate her powerful emotional range in a death scene.  


In the most recent Episode of Downton Abbey, a certain male valet says to his wife, a certain maid who is attacked in the same way that Bullet is attacked by Goldie in Episode 3 of The Killing:

"You are not spoiled. You are made higher to me and holier because of the suffering you have been put through."

If she had to die, brave Bullet deserved a death worthy of the "higher, holier" human being she was -- a girl who did not dwell in her suffering nor let it define her, but rose above it and used her pain to compassionately protect her street-family from suffering what she did.  Ideally, though, with all she silently suffered through, she deserved to live and to fulfill, as Bex articulated, "all she wanted to be."  By extension, Bex, who all but stole the entire season with her nuanced and engaging portrayal, deserved the opportunity to develop her performance of Bullet's character beyond Season 3...

                                                 R.I.P BULLET

The other 18 Lionhearted Heroines and the actresses who portrayed them are dedicated to Bex's beautiful, yet all too brief achievement as Bullet, the ultimate Lionhearted girl...who perhaps lives on in Bex's new canine soul-mate, Baby Bullet:


*Note: This post was published by the online film review website, Bitch Flicks, in two parts on Friday, November 14 & Tuesday, November 19, 2013. Here are the links for both parts:

The Killing's Bullet: The Quintessential Lionhearted Heroine

18 Lionhearted Heroines in Film and Television
*In addition, The Killing on AMC Fan Group published Part 1 of the Bitch Flicks post on its website on Friday, March 15, 2014, at the following link:
The Killing's Bullet: The Quintessential Lionhearted Heroine