Down The River In Netflix’ Bird Box

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Netflix adaptation bird box review from book to film

I remember as if it was yesterday - in April 2014, when my blog was a tender two months old, a fresh copy of Josh Malerman’s Bird Box landed on my desk. I couldn’t believe my luck! Amongst many aspiring online writers, I had been selected by a PR agency to receive a preview copy of the thrilling novel. 

In fact, the book had been my very first EVER gifted PR sample, so even though I found the read overall a bit average, it still holds a special place in my heart and it goes without saying that I eagerly anticipated the Netflix adaptation and binge-watched it the moment it got released.

Netflix Has Adapted The Novel Birdbox Into A Film

Usually, I’m not too bothered about horror or thriller stories but the moment I got Bird Box out of its package, I was intrigued by its neat presentation and I was still overjoyed that I had been selected to review the book. In my enthusiasm and eagerness, I started reading straight away – aw, those were the days of early blogging! Very quickly one page turned another, chapter by chapter. I was hooked for days, couldn’t put it down and completely indulged into the dark, mysterious and gripping world of Bird Box.

Now that Netflix has brought the eerie novel to life, I meticulously found myself following the plot. Adaptations are always tricky – especially when you translate a book into a two-hour film, but in this case, Netflix has done a great job. 

The scenery is incredibly well-chosen, the atmosphere well captured and even if I wouldn’t have known that this was an adaptation of Malerman’s book, I felt immediately taken back to the dark world that I first entered in 2014. There are barely any changes and the plot follows precisely the novel. 

The setting is a modern, apocalyptic America where horrifying incidents and strange happenings leave people in fear and terrifying horror. No one knows exactly what is going on - only that people brutally kill each other all of a sudden or they die painfully by the sight of something very haunting. 

What Happens In Birdbox?

For a long time rumour has it of so-called “creatures” that make people go mad. The only protection seems to be wearing blindfolds and hideaway in homes. A life in isolation, darkness, and fear begins for those who wish to survive.

In this gruesome world lives a young mother called Malorie with her two little children. The plot's frame story centres on their struggle to survive and starts with them leaving the safety of their home to travel blindfolded down a river in the hope to find help and other survivors. A dangerous trip into the disturbing unknown begins.

Whilst they embark on their risky journey, in alternate flashbacks the reader/viewer learns about Malorie’s story which started four years ago. Pregnant from a one night stand, she lost her sister and parents when the incidents began. In her desperation and grief, she answers a classified ad in the newspaper that offers shelter and protection from the killing. In the next chapter, Malorie finds herself living with six strangers in a house shielded away from the outside world with limited space causing tensions and mistrust under the flatmates soon.

 “Most people ignored the outrageous reports on the news. But they became too frequent, they became too real. And soon, they began happening down the street. Then the Internet died. The television and radio went silent. The phones stopped ringing. And we couldn’t look outside anymore.”

On 304 pages, Malerman described extraordinarily the fear of the unknown and the horror the protagonists had to live in and had to go through personally - an atmosphere that the movie captures with ease. From the first chapter onwards, I remember the plot was very straightforward and contained a strong and well depicted Malorie as the main character. Sandra Bullock is a superb cast for the role as she embodies a fearless mother who is protective of their children, yet has to hold a strong and harsh appearance to guarantee their survival.

Book vs Film: Differences And Similarities In Birdbox

In the novel, Malerman used language effectively to set atmospheric scenes, tension and suspense thus created the most emotional impact on the reader (goosebumps included). The language structure and words were chosen wisely, not overly complicated which allowed a constant reading flow and made Bird Box an enjoyable page-turner. 

The same applies to the movie, which is told in a very linear narrative which flows naturally. At no point did I feel bored or disengaged and I felt the movie allowed easy access to the story, its characters and to be taken on this dangerous journey.

So why did I feel the book was only average? Well, both book and movie remain widely shallow and you can’t shake off the feeling that something is missing. Certain passages in the middle part could have been shortened for instance and instead, some remaining questions which stayed with me at the end could have been explained. 

The ending did feel rushed to me and wasn’t round enough…..something was missing for me and though the whole creature situation when first introduced was shocking, it wore off pretty quickly. Neither Malerman or the adaptation gave enough explanation. There was substance lacking big time and once again when I finished with Bird Box I felt dissatisfied…like “This is really it?”. 

In terms of character development, I found Malorie a likeable character as most of her development was described implicitly through her actions. She was this brave, patient and rational person who could be proud of her achievements and her children – again this role could have not been played by any other than Sandra Bullock.

My Final Thoughts On The Birdbox Movie Adaptation

It is actually astonishing, how much of the plot and details I remembered when I watched the movie. Whereas in the book some of the minor characters were less feasible, I found it worked well in the movie, partly because working through detailed descriptions and character features were easily replaced by the visual portrayal of the actors. 

I also found Olympia and John Malkovich as Gary very well casted. Many of the flatmates still remained vague and it was hard to care and feel for them. Out of the flatmates, Tom was probably the most developed character but he had to as he was Malorie's sign for hope. The romantic twist in the film was actually quite refreshing and worked in favour of the story.

Other characters such as Cheryl, Joules, Felix and Don made hardly a distinction in the film and in the book. Book Don needed some attention and development as he was a key figure in the main conflict and showdown. It was him who refused Gary straight away and a few pages later he seemed to be completely under his spell, though the text was vague about Gary's influence on Don. 

Back then reading the novel, I found it hard, irritating and too quick how Don's character changed from literally one page to the other. The sudden mood swings and character change didn’t make much sense to me at all and the text offered little information to find a satisfying explanation. The movie has definitely solved that problem more cleverly and offered a smoother transition to the next part of the story: the exodus of the house and the trip down the river.

Overall, Netflix has produced a decent adaptation that is worthy of its literary template. The film is entertaining and stays very true to the story, with a strong female lead and overall supporting cast. Scenery and atmosphere capture very well the tone and tensions of the book. However, like the book, the film doesn’t provide any more knowledge on the main conflict – a missed chance when translated into the medium of film, which the creative freedom could have easily fixed. Therefore, Bird Box remains entertaining but shallow. 

Thanks for reading, 

Till next time, 

Exploring Zürich When You Don't Have Much Time

Sunday, 27 January 2019

City break to Zurich in winter
Picture Credit & Photographer: Switzerland Tourism / Jan Geerk

Last year I worked for a short while for a travel company that happened to have their Head Quarters located in Zürich - Switzerland's biggest city and thriving European business hub. One of the perks of working for an international company was the business travel that came with the job, so it happened that I was sent twice to Zürich in the cold wintery first half of the year. What a great kick-off to a travel-rich 2018!

Same, Same But Different: Swiss And German Culture Share Some Similarities

Many, many years ago I've visited Switzerland and I've seen Thun, Bern and the Wilhelm Tell Festival Games in Luzern - all beautiful cities that I remember fondly. There was no doubt, that Zürich would be as equally impressive and it did not disappoint. Whilst my main purpose was to go to work, I did have some time afterwards to explore the local area and city centre. 

It has to be said, that most cities in Switzerland are fairly small and moderately manageable in terms of sightseeing. Zürich makes no exception and it's surprisingly refreshing when you come from the chaos that is London to such a lovely spot in the picturesque Alps. It feels like you've entered into a completely different world once you've stepped out of the aeroplane (Swiss obvs) after a 2h flight. 

Saying that to me as a German it always feels different when I go anywhere in the DACH countries so, in a way, it feels the same, cause it's the language and certain cultural aspects that I share with these nations, and then it feels different cause it's not Germany. However, I'm getting a bit side-tracked here because I wanted to tell you more about Zürich's compact size. 

Zürich's High Quality Of Life

The city is handsomely small and the centre can easily be seen in a few hours. Everything is safe and walkable. It's a stark contrast to London where most of your time is taken up with travelling on the tube that equals a world tour. Zürich, on the other hand, is a city of short distances. My journey from the terminal building to my desk at the office located right at Lake Zürich took me 30 minutes. 

The journey was comfortable as well as Swiss value comfort and have high-quality trains (must be a German thing I reckon). In general, I got the impression that the quality of life is extremely high - the streets are impeccably neat, the houses have beautiful facades and people are very happy and friendly. A stroll along the city centre makes it very obvious, that this is a culturally rich and affluent city that has a strong economy and attracts a lot of international businesses. 

The Bahnhofstrasse is plastered with designer shops, people generally use bikes or walk which all contribute to a healthier work-life balance. All of that sounds amazing and thriving, however, the energies slow down dramatically after 6pm, when literally the streets are empty - dead empty. 

And not just that. Living in such a high-quality paradise comes at a price and the tag is hefty! Switzerland is notorious for extensive living costs, so be prepared and don't let it knock you off your socks if your lunch amounts to £30 per person (easily!).

Zurich city and the Limmat river in winter
Picture Credit & Photographer: Switzerland Tourism / Christof Sonderegger

Dining Out & Where To Go In Switzerland's Second Largest City

Speaking of food, Zürich has a lovely dining scene and what would a trip to Switzerland be without the national classic Cheese Fondue? When you travel on work expenses, I obviously had to take the chance to treat myself to a typical Swiss dinner, so one evening I went to Le Dézaley for Cheese Fondue or another night to Australian restaurant Outback Lodge to try Kangaroo for the first time. The dining scene is a good mixture and I wanted to venture into new culinary territory. Here are my recommendations: 

For Lunch 

££ Puro or Milchbar (Paradeplatz, towards the lake) - both are lovely bistro-style and offer healthy lunch options such as salads on the go or also for sit down. The menu changes quite often but you'll always find a mix of healthy options teamed up with local cuisine and a safe Italian option (pasta mostly). Lunch comes around £30-50 for starter/main/dessert

£ Bakery Jung (Paradeplatz West) has some very nice German sandwiches, meaning seeded sourdough bread filled with salad and brie. Absolutely delicious! You can also order freshly pressed orange juice and buy typical German pastries. Sandwich and juice come £15, pastries around £5. 

If you fancy some quick and easy fast food, B.Good (Old Town, £) might be the place for you. They serve the usual sweet potato or chunky fries alongside build-your-own-burgers. It's usually pretty busy around lunch but luckily there's a high turnover so you don't have to wait too long for a seat. Costs included are around £16.

For Dinner

A typical Swiss restaurant is Zunfthaus zur Zimmerleuten (Old Town, Limmat Ufer, £££) which serves Rösti, Cordon Bleu, Schnitzel, skinless pork (aka fat) and other savoury dishes. Be prepared for a massive food coma afterwards and a very slow processing since Swiss and generally German food is very heavy and takes a lot of time to digest. I ordered the Zurich Stew (Zürcher Geschnetzeltes) which was made from pork and came with a lovely potato Rösti. It was exactly what I needed after a long day at work and a cold -6 degrees outside. They do serve Fondue, however, they only do so in winter and only outside since the Fondue makes a lot of steam and smell which they don't want to have in their cosy restaurant chamber. 

Le Dézaley (Old Town, £££) was rated as one of the top-secret spots to go for Swiss Fondue by Easyjet Magazine so on my second visit I went there of course. Together with my colleague, we ordered two sets - the classic traditional Cheese Fondue and a Black Truffle Fondue, alongside sliced bread. 

We've been seated by this lovely Swiss waiter who loved to talk to us and was fascinated to learn that I was German, living in London but working in Switzerland, so there was lots to talk about all evening. The fondue itself is quite the experience since you have open fire burner stations on the table to keep the cheese nice and smooth. The bread is a great addition as you easily overeat the cheese and might feel sick after a while, so having a slice of plain bread to clear your palate is actually nice. As for dessert, we ordered Italian Pannacotta which was sheer heaven and super smooth with a lovely vanilla flavour.

Le Dézaley swiss cheese fondue in switzerland

Another dining highlight in Zürich was certainly Australian restaurant Outback Lodge (Stadelhofen, near the Opera House, £££). The restaurant is tucked away hidden in a back yard and only the many fairy lights outside hint at the entrance to another world - and it is an incredible atmosphere in there. 

In the summer (or in my case very early spring) you can even sit outside, literally under the stars, and enjoy amazing food. On my first visit, I ordered their Bushtrucker Rolls (sweetcorn tortillas with lovely Australian chili) and on my second visit, I went big and had Kangaroo entrecote with green beans, papadum and tomato salsa. Yum! Both times I loved the food and Outback Lodge was an absolute must for me. Yep, Australian food is absolutely delish.

Switzerland has a variety of cultures and is a multilingual country hence why there are also many Italians living and working here. The best Italian restaurant as recommended by my colleagues is Don Leone (three locations, Waffenplatz, ££). 

We had a team dinner after our social and ordered big time: we started with a sharing platter filled with burrata, ham and tomatoes, then went on to pizza, pasta, calzone, Dolcetto, arancini and pannacotta. I have no idea how much we spend in there but the atmosphere was lovely, the food very authentic and delicious and I would come back anytime.

For Chocolate

Oh, what would a trip to Switzerland be without tasting their world-famous chocolate?!? The "Rolls-Royce" amongst Swiss chocolate is Läderrach and you'll find their shops frequently on the Swiss High Street. The chocolate is manufactured in big slabs so when you go there you'll pay by weight (like when you go to the butcher) rather than by bar. 

They have all sorts of flavours and combinations, and part of their success is the very smooth texture and a high portion of cocoa bean in the chocolate. A bit more down-to-earth but equally sophisticated is Sprüngli, which has several cafes in the city centre. Their chocolates are very nice and moderately priced. And then there's, of course, Lindt (to me overrated) and Kambly (try their mountain top biscuits).

swiss chocolates photographed by Andre Meier
Picture Credit & Photographer: Switzerland Tourism / Andre Meier

What To Do And See In Zürich 

The city is surrounded by breathtaking mountain scenery which is approximately 40 minutes away by car. You can go hiking and skiing or just enjoying the sun in one of the many chalets and Apres Ski cabins. There's also the Lake Zürich with its crystal-clear water. 

In the summer you can enjoy ice cream, go swimming or take a boat trip. In general, Swiss love their rivers and are very outdoorsy and inventive with watersports. The same applies to the river Limmat which ends in the Lake. Just before the bridge, there's a women's lido and you'll regularly see people jumping into the river in the summer to cool down in their lunch breaks.

Then there's the Opera House which is stunning at any time of the year but it is especially worth visiting in the pre-Christmas period when the markets are on. Then there's also the Old Town on the East-side of the river which is a pedestrian zone seamed with old, fairytale gingerbread houses, cute little alleys to get lost and independent shops. 

It feels like you've been transported back into time admiring all these medieval houses with its delicate facades. There are water fountains telling stories of the area and in general, there's a lot to see and to discover. 

You can also explore the area in the other direction, around the Opera House is a lovely path along the water to inhale some fresh air. For a perfect view over the town, head to the university on the hill. There’s a tower platform with awkward opening hours but also a viewing platform directly in front of the library - the Polyterrasse for a gorgeous 260-degree all-around panorama. 

The city is also well connected to the train line so trips to other cities, such as Bern or even Milan are possible. 

For a bit more action, I can recommend the Lasertag Arena (Waffenplatz). I've never done it before, nor have I been to play paintball, but during one of our team socials, we played two rounds of Lasertag and it was soooooooooooooo cool. You'll be given a laser cannon and wear an electronic vest. Once split into teams you are released into a dark labyrinth with lots of places to hide and the main aim is to "shoot" the other team. It's a lot of fun and actually a pretty good workout since you'll be constantly on the move.

Last But Not Least.... the big question where to stay. Like everything in Switzerland, accommodation is rather pricey. The Old Town has some lovely small, independent hotels and on both of my stays, I resided at Hotel Rössli. The rooms are cosy and clean with a modern interior. 

The beds are super soft and usually, I'm having a hard time falling asleep in hotels, but here, I actually managed to fully relax. The location in the pedestrian zone of the Old Town guarantees a quiet night and there will be no sirenes or heavy traffic disturb the peace (some drunken people potentially, since there's a small pub downstairs).

Zurich shot from the plane

So there you go, these are all my tips and insights I can share for your trip to Zürich. It's a lovely place perfect for a weekender or city break in the pre-Christmas period or romantic trip for the upcoming Valentine's Day.

Thanks for reading, 

Till next time, 

Vintage Shopping In Kensington

Sunday, 20 January 2019

charity shopping in kensington london

Remember that one time, when I attempted vintage shopping in Birmingham and it went moderately downhill? Well, I've ventured once again into the world of sustainable fashion and vintage shopping the other day in Kensington, when The Indytute*, offered me the chance to go on a guided tour around the local charity shops.

The Indytute is an online platform that offers unusual gift experiences and fun day outs in London such as roller-skating, rope aerobics, afternoon crafting and upcycling workshops or bespoke charity shopping tours in Hampstead, Kensington or Dalston. I've known London now for 20 years and it never fails to impress me. Exploring never gets boring and even after all this time, I can always discover new sides and perspectives of my favourite city. 

I decided to go charity shop hunting in Central London, as I thought this would be an interesting area to explore fashion-wise. Known for its high-end clientele, posh streets and impeccable houses, I assumed that Kensington would mainly be an area of recycled designer brands and chances were high that today might have been the day to find that “true” vintage item.  

Vintage Shopping In Kensington

On a crisp and warm Autumn afternoon, I met up with tour guide Sanna and a group of five interested bargain hunters to explore the area and see Kensington High Street from a different fashion perspective. Sanna used to live in London and would regularly scan the area for special vintage finds. From clothes, to record stores and even furniture, Sanna knew all the places worth going to. 

We started the two-hour tour directly on Kensington High Street where you can find the usual: Oxfam, Cancer Research - you name it they are all there. We went straight into Cancer UK and the familiar rummaging started. Vintage or charity shopping is a bit like a box of chocolates - you never know what you'll be getting. After less than 10 minutes scanning the rails, amongst Primark and Warehouse dresses, I found a black Moschino skirt with a red heart print. Reduced to £35 – unfortunately not in my size, but not too bad for a start. The next shop was the Octavia Foundation next door which turned out to be a little treasure trove for nice second-hand finds. 

what to buy during a vintage shopping tour

The Story of The Dress

After tugging into the rails of clothes and carefully selecting through the labels, I found a cute cotton skater dress from the brand Snow Traffic. The cotton dress had a lovely girly touch with its light colours and turquoise applications and the round neckline was an additional bonus. This would have come home with me straight away a couple of years ago, but since I’ve changed my style and want to shift away from skater dresses, I had to hang this one back onto the rail.

snow traffic skater dress

My next find was a very unusual and special piece. Attracted by its bold colour combination, I unearthed a brown cotton dress with mustard yellow circles. The pattern reminded me very much of Yayoi Kusama’s artwork and my first bet was that the dress must have been somehow linked to the Japanese artist in some way. 

Turned out this dress was the centrepiece of Finish designer Mika Piirainen for label Marikmekko in 2009/2010. Known for its bold colours and standout patterns, the label only works with high-quality fabrics which can make their dresses retail at over £250 easily. This one found in the Octavia Foundation shop came £12. This was a very interesting piece of clothing, as Sanna and I fell instantly in love with it and I researched it straight away in the shop to evaluate its potential value. 

I wanted to know where it came from and what story it had to tell, so once we’ve discovered that this was an actual piece of high-quality designer clothing, we’ve decided it had to come home with us. This was a great feeling, as usual, I get very disheartened when I search through the rails of charity or vintage shops and then I see Primark or H&M dresses retail at the same price as if I would have gone to the original shop. 

Finding something, that was of high quality and, you know one of those special finds that was actually decent and at a bargain price, made me confident that I slowly but surely developed an eye for those rare gems. 

yayoi kusama dress
marimekko dress collection 2009 2010

More Charity Shop Hopping Down the Road On The Kensington High Street

Further down the road, we went into two more shops. Geranium was a random collection of literally everything and nothing: there were furniture, old jewellery next to vintage crockery and clothes stacked onto each other all combined with a distinctive smell of old, worn and used items in the air. 

It was an unusual shop and after having a look through the coats, I found a brown Mulberry jacket at £40. Not as good as the Marimekko dress but still surprised to find that many designer names on Kensington High Street. The small red charity shop on the other side of the street next to watchmaker Henry Hallpike turned out to be disappointing. After having a look through the rails with nothing particular standing out, we’ve decided it was time to take the bus and switch locations.

Gloucester Road Has Some Quirky Vintage Shops, Too

After a short ride, we ended up on Gloucester Road. Here one half of the group decided to check out the offer in the Oxfam shop, whilst Sanna and I were more intrigued about Fara and the Royal Trinity Hospice on the other side of the street. Both shops were incredible and a vintage shoppers dream. 

Small but very cute, stuffed from bottom to ceiling with the most beautiful pieces mostly designer brands and unknown labels. Here you could truly find some unique and timeless pieces and literally spend your entire Sunday afternoon discovering one gem after another. I loved the shabby chic style with the wooden flooring, the English country style wallpaper, hidden rooms and all the things that waited to be explored and to be found. 

An old fashioned standing mirror completed the cliché of a perfect vintage shop for me, so it took me quite a while to get out of there. I’ve not found or bought anything during the tour, I just wanted to be open to the experience and learn as much as possible about my own shopping behaviour – like I did when I went to Birmingham.

burberry vintage jacket found in geranium
vintage shopping on kensington high street
a standing mirror in a vintage shop

A Fun Afternoon Discovering Fashion & Vintage On An Unusual Shopping Tour

The afternoon went over way too fast and Sanna has been an incredible guide, knowing a lot of labels and fabrics and she’s given me some great tips how to spot a “true” vintage find amongst the usual clutter. 

Because, if we’re honest, most of the shops have a lot of contemporary clothes donated and to find that typical 1950 Burberry teddy coat that was only available in a limited edition which is still in great condition today and at £40 a bargain or that LV handbag from the 1920s that has now developed a distinctive patina is very hard to find – especially if you don’t know the brands, the collections or in general the fabrics and how they’re supposed to alter over time.

 Especially if you’re like me a vintage virgin, it is super helpful to have a knowledgeable guide with you. Not only will you be able to be taken to “the hot spots” but also you have someone you can discuss your finds with. Sanna and I spent at least a good 15 minutes debating over the Marimekko dress and the material and its quality before we’ve decided though it’s not vintage, it is still a very good bargain find and one of us will take it home and love it for the next 20 years.

On the tour, I’ve not only learnt how to sharpen my eye for what is a good find and what is junk but also about sustainability with our clothing. Charity shopping will always be a long process, as you have to go through the labels, assess the quality and at the end of the day, you may not come home having bought anything. 

Whereas if you go to the High Street and you know exactly what you’re after, you can shop targeted and more straight-forward. In the long term though, spending an afternoon in the shops and be more selective with your items can reduce the high amounts of throw-away/one-season fashion plus don’t we all want to build that quality wardrobe in which each piece has character, will make you feel amazing and bring you long-term joy?  

Thanks for reading, 

Till next time,

* I was gifted the experience by The Indytute in exchange for an honest review. All opinion are my own.
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