Monday, 13 October 2014

"All is vanity…" GONE GIRL

* W A R N I N G:  C O N T A I N S  S P O I L E R S  *

There has been much talk about whether Gone Girl offers some sort of profound insight into marriage and relationships…Nah! It's a taught, criteria-fulfilling thriller; well-made and slick, visually stylish  and nicely-acted - a great big bitter contraception pill of a movie. But meaningful probe into the human psyche it ain't.

The film (and book) is all about plot rather than character integrity. And given the lead is a brilliantly  narcissistic psychopath in the body of a generic Homecoming Queen, it's hardly realistic either (not that realism per se is a mandatory vehicle for insight). Yet Amy still isn't a post-modern feminist psycho-killer. She can't be a great female role model 'baddie' because she simply doesn't have the moral ambiguity, fallibility or attraction of a Becky Sharp.  So while she's strangely satisfying to watch in all her cunning, she holds few surprises that aren't plot-driven. It's like the difference between a movie where everything happens and you learn nothing or nothing happens and you feel spiritually enriched.

Perhaps this is down to the creator's technique; more really is too much and ultimately, we're led so far into Amy's head we know there's nothing real there. The moments when you imagine she could be an interesting monster; the 'amazing' creation of acquisitive, quasi-caring, self-serving parents, is a seam that's never fully explored in the novel or film, and I'd suggest Rosamond Pike's mesmerising  performance makes the character just about as deep and interesting as possible.

So who's the (anti-) hero? Like Vanity Fair purports in its subtitle, perhaps there isn't one. Except here there really isn't one. The Husband? No. Nick, is ordinary enough to elicit sympathy but just that bit too ordinary to take on that mantle. He's borderline-dull and a bit of a mug, (superbly played by Ben Affleck). And although he wins a few battles, he loses the war. All the other characters are never more than pawns in the game (although I do like that Nick's sister is called "Go"; nice word-play) yet so commendably dedicated is Amy to her spiteful revenge on male inadequacy (for so it is), that we do still find ourselves - if not cheering her on - certainly fascinated by her machinations. Couldn't help but feel Amy's initial cock-up was that of choosing poorly...

What saves both film and book, what lifts them into properly gripping and entertaining, despite a pretty consistent and undisputed dislike of the lead characters, is the wicked humour; at its dark heart this is a farce and a neat one at that. 

Clever, comic, ugly - not profound - you leave both book and cinema feeling slightly soiled. And maybe that was that Gillian Flynn's intention..because she's good, she's really very good...

Vanity Fair

"…his hands bound in a web of green silk, which she was unwinding."

BACKGROUND information...

My first picture book - called A Possum's Tail - is a collaboration with brilliant illustrator Alex Barrow and came out 6th February 2014. A second book called London Calls! is a whistle-stop tour of London, led by a Pearly grandma and her granddaughter. London Calls! came out on 4th September 2014 and is my second book with Alex Barrow. A Possum's Tail was nominated for the 2015 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal.
Both books are by Tate Publishing.

Please see my CURRICULUM VITAE for more details & updates.

As well as writing children's books, for children's television and two award-winning children's magazines, I do both private and commercial art commissions, a selection of which you can see here.

The children's shoes are part of an ongoing series of "first shoes", including several cards commissioned by the Almanac Gallery.

Hand-drawn, bespoke invitations, announcements, portraits and menus, such as the examples here are also available upon request..

Any enquiries please email:


I've been a regular contributor to children's art and science magazine OKIDO since 2007. HAPPY 10th BIRTHDAY (WOW) beautiful Okido!

An Okido animated kids tv show, based on characters from the magazine is currently in production with Doodle/Squintopera The original adaptation of the show (co-created/adapted by myself, producer Ceri Barnes and Doodle Productions) was acquired by CBeebies. 52 x 11 minute episodes will be coming to a screen near you soon in 2015.......... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .............................
N E W S F L A S H! MESSY GOES TO OKIDO Series TWO is now in production, following a super-successful 52 episode first series!



Cartoon Forum 2011 Okido booklet

Cartoon Forum 2011 Okido booklet
Okido Cartoon Forum 2011

Happy Birthday OKIDO!

Happy Birthday OKIDO!
Okido was 5 years old this issue...the wonderful art and science magazine for kids I've been lucky enough to have worked on for the past - 8 - years now