Parasite | Film Review by Jude Yawson

Rating: 5/5

Runtime: 2H 10M

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Production Company: Barunson E&A

When we watch film, TV, documentaries and live performance, I assume we all want to be immersed in a new perspective and an experience expressible within our intelligible world. When familiar or merely astonished, we can denote what makes a good, great or at times even spectacular showing. Hence foreign films tend to be refreshing spectacles, introductions into new modes of life our socially convenient bubbles may not invite. Unless you are a cinephile decorated with an eccentric range of appreciation or a regular cinema-goer and movie fanatic with a string of foreign cult classics under your belt. Or simply a socially aware and engaged member of our society. We parade the in things – until the algorithm dwindles and it is onto the next in thing. If you are not a movie lover, Parasite may just sound like another foreign subtitled film you will never see. Which makes sense, foreign films tend to be hard to find, inaccessible, unless lined and suggested by our now many streaming services.

Though the hype around the masterpiece of Parasite is truly justified. It is nothing short of a remarkable cinema experience. It is magnificently directed and written by one of the stars of Korean New Wave Cinema the now renowned Bong Joon-Ho. Korean New Wave Cinema emerged on the back end of foreign films in Korea, having screen quota laws, limiting the number of days they could play in theatres. This was done to prevent a Hollywood film monopoly extending over their shores and prompted the Korean film industry to look at itself. The wave has been a reaction to what many of its proponents have described as stemming from changes of the cultural and political landscape. With incredible and/or internationally acclaimed films like Oldboy, My Sassy Girl and Joint Security Area, Parasite marks another film stemming from this commendable wave of film. Parasite received the illustrious Palme d’Or, the highest winnable award at the Cannes Film Festival last year. It also swept up at the Academy Awards winning Best Picture, the first foreign film to do so, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film. In total so far Parasite has won 185 of its 300 award nominations, which exemplifies the high praise the film has commanded.

Kwan Sin Ae and Bong Joon Ho

In short, Parasite is a dark comedy, which draws upon themes from other genres in an emphatic, genre-blending tale, fixated on class consciousness. It contains aspects of romance but is upheld by cornerstones of infectious comedy, even though in many moments the film seeps into the anxiety of thrillers. It deserves a non-spoiler, no trailer, watch. It whisks this all together with mystery, social realism and aspects of a class-conscious through drama. Hence this is built up in a Shakespearean manner, a collation of so many themes it screens as an entertaining experience. The film had me spellbound to the screen from the beginning. Bong Joon-ho noted an inspiration for this film came in the 1960 melodrama The Housemaid, a house divided by two stories and a tale revolving around class itself. For most of his work, Bong Joon-Ho’s ideas carry an emphasis on class, genre, and films that resonate with an intrigued audience. From the first scene of Parasite it sinks you into class consciousness. The scene dictates character, enamours colour to infer state and space to a point you can be fixated on these factors as important, as the film plays out. It instils the identities of the characters very well by their outlook and space, and it begins with its focus on the Kim family.

The Kim family

The Kim family is led by Bong Joon-Ho’s long time acting companion Song Kang-ho. Song Kang-ho has featured in many of Bong’s previous projects, and he plays the Father of the family in Parasite as Kim Ki-taek. He is a fluid man, in a sense of attempting to weave his way to be better. No matter the circumstance, Kim Ki-taek lives in respect of the randomness that is life. Noting in a scene “the best plan is no plan”. Alongside him the cast is brilliant, and you could gauge their mood through tone, expression, and a budding score that at times frolicked between the comedic moments and fell deaf or zoned in worry when necessary. There were times within this film I cried with laughter, gasped with sheer shock, and winced at the rawness of many moments. The comedy left a lasting impression on me, how well worked and refreshing it was to see comedic spiel from another walk of life. Bong Joon-Ho described his adoration for Song Kang-ho’s acting skills insofar as he has mastered the bridging of genres through subtle moments within his acting. This was evident within the film, as his character carries a splitting tone that may weigh different in distinction to the other’s. It worked supremely well with the compounding of the genres, as it felt as if I watched even expectations of him as a man, which are brought into question until you realise this is their livelihood and we are privy to their actions and desires within it.

The story revolves around the maintenance of the Kim family who live in a shoddy half-basement. A banjiha, which in Korean means a cramped basement flat. The contrast to the rich Park family, who live in a mansion, cleaned and organised by a house nanny, are driven around by a hired driver, and live perched upon a fortune. Though affordable, the living conditions of the half-basement are nonetheless degrading. It is prone to drunken urinating passers-by, road dust, pollutants and anti-pollutant forces. They are hidden away from view, and scheme in what feels like the underbelly of society. This is where I got the first impression of colours. The stark pale green, dirtied walls and hoarded rooms, almost vacant light glistening through the window. The lack of movement of the camera, which brings the claustrophobic habitat of the Kim family to a still. This is what it is. It peers out into a buzzing town through an almost unnoticeable window that peeps over ground from the under. The Park family’s mansion sits upon a Hill, in which one must go upward to reach, which is telling of social hierarchy. The space is bountiful, the green and garden expansive, and each room wider than the entirety of the Kim family’s home.

The scenes manoeuvre around space as it points toward its multi-layered considerations of class. Such as the difference in family structures, and their financial afflictions. The difference in passion and willingness, and their relationships within them. The Kim family are poor, their home is considerably dirty and confined by juxtapose over the course of the film. They are parasitic in behaviour as they attempt to leech off whatever comes their way. Whether it be more shifts, a new job, surrounding free WiFi services that span their area, and fortunes they may not be willing to share. They attempt to maximise opportunity as a necessity rather than want, which is a luxury they do not seem to have. Though what I felt was not a disgust or sheer empathy, but an understanding of their relationship as a poor family attempting to make ends meet through each other. Even in watching for the first time with a friend, he made me realise this family share a strong similarity with other identities in such a position. For instance, our West African heritage, in which utilising what we must to survive and thriving through the dark to make ends meet, is a usual pattern to succeed. The subtle comedic jabs build a comfortability, one in which a family living in recognition of their circumstances, can make. The eagerness to grasp the opportunity and steer clear of situations that could damage that is costly. The way in which the Kim family act, sells this position as a reality, this is how some people are forced to live by the roll of the social dice that is class and status from birth.

Parasite rests on that class consciousness and projection of space by highlighting the division and difference in people. Though the injections of other themes like the aspects of thriller and at times otherworldly appeal are absorbing to a point where they add a wider context to the film. The families are initially introduced through Ki-woo’s, the son of the Kim family, friend Min-hyuk – who needed Ki-woo to replace him as a tutor at this rich family’s home. A successful college student, Min-hyuk trusts Ki-woo to replace and look after Da-Hye for him, who he has fallen for and encourages Ki-woo to take advantage of this opportunity to make money. This scenario is true to a degree, taken from Bong Joon-Ho’s experience of being a tutor to a rich family – he has some first-hand experience. Ki-woo is dubbed as Kevin, English named as one of the subjects he teaches would be, hired by the Mother to teach Da-Hye. This is where the movement and interest of the cinematography expand to allow the spaciousness to uphold the contrast as an issue, or rather something to manipulate.

As rich and successful as the Park family seem to be, their relaxed behaviour and lapsed life together as a family unit, is not as strong or rather parasitic as the Kim family who move in unison like a rampant virus. The mansion is towering, ceiling raised, opposed to boxed, like the cramped half-basement. There is a boom in hue with beautiful brown and an abundance of light. The gorgeous home and non-suffocating room, an elevation in comparison to the sunken atmosphere the half-basement hosts, is somewhat belittling to witness but a testament to a change in the environment that Kevin and his family yearns for. Though Kevin also recognises the social hierarchy that comes with such territory. To escape the conceded tragedy that is their home and situation, the Kim family must grasp for more – and the film exacts this journey through a tremendous 2 hour and 10-minute trial of a film.

1917 | Film Review by Jude Yawson

Rating: 4.25/5 

Runtime: 1H 59M

Director: Sam Mendes

Production Company: DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, New Republic Pictures, Mogambo, Neal Street Productions, Amblin Partners

The Great War is more often explored in soundbites and grey scenes of soldiers venturing into unfathomable conditions. States of combat and invigorative warfare, aided by the technological advancements and challenges in the dawn of the 20th century, which beckoned the destruction anthropogenic intelligence would produce with years to come. Instruments of mass justified killing, conflicting nude morals paraded without the shame turned to civil society’s, which comes into play when the world seeps into a consciousness of war. Though machinery, shell shock, and the metallic consequences of war, were not so relevant in this breath-taking spectacle of a film, that uplifts the human conditioning and lack of resource as its main contention of war. 1917 assured viewers were immersed in aspects of this Great War. It boasts a simple yet death-defying plot, following the mission of Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and his favoured comrade Lance Corporal Schofield (George Mackay) on a seemingly endless journey to deliver a message to hold back an attack on a suspicious retreating German force to the Hindenburg Line. Though this straightforward plot infused with an entrancing and very much heroic do or die endeavour is fixated on these two characters, it is enamoured with a continuous sequence of shots which had me second-guessing when they actually broke to capture another scene.

1917 boasts brilliant cinematography, it stands as a character in itself. You watch the lens pan and manoeuvre around bumping bodies bobbling through crowded trenches, swerving to capture raw emotion in facial expressions, and signifying a horror of unease by environment by featuring the waste and nature working its way around it, whether through decay or insects circling its deceased prey. The indicating movement of scenes amounts tension where it needs to be. At times I felt a genuine fear for the main characters mission and the journey they embarked on. It also encouraged growing favour of these characters and their personal ambitions, the way they narrated their own experiences and livelihoods, with only several moments of relief from the realities of this tremendous scale of warfare managing to segregate the blended imaginative scenes which depicted it. The splendid examination of everything produced a war film I had never seen before.

Some of these moments were representationally honest, shedding light on a Sikh soldier, picturing a few Black soldiers plotted in different battalions. It was somewhat refreshing and not lingering on a force, though makes me consider when we will get a wartime film based on such experiences. The blend of accents from all over Britain also infers the interconnectivity of these great Wars. In many moments I found myself at the edge of my seat, cemented in the danger and paranoia of this mission. The well worked settings of trenches, and contrast of materials and crafting by the efficient and more technologically readied Germans to the more honest and at times random livelihoods of the British. I feel this is displayed to show some backward amounted respect. The old, now not so contentious rivalry of two former grand nations enthused with their own greatness. Even the much more sudden depictions of the German soldiers make them seem like bodies, human beings, plus ones experiencing the gruesomeness of war similarly to the British. Some shots and scenes were ethereal, despite being led into by existential views of the fragility of these human beings enveloped by war.

This is another war film captivated by the individual, the human state of mind, and the hideousness of this Great War from an unseen angle. In bits it gave me vibes of Saving Private Ryan, though with a scope of a thriller attached and the perks of a huge never-ending setting. The thriller came in horrific shots of ambiguity that made me witness these characters as just bodies in numbers, in the dark, and individuals with immaterial weights of their family, friends and ultimately mission by war. Sam Mendes is a brilliant Director, and some of the thriller vibes I acknowledged from the film Road To Perdition (2002) where shots so dark but lit by accessories of the scene, like headlights, weathering, gunfire and shadow, sink you into story. In the same respect Mendes demands your attention in periods it is merely observing. Considering how some events occur, the element of worry deters you from taking your eyes off this film. My favourite moment comes during a burst of pace and movement through the depths of night, where the impression of bodies really drew me in. Where bodies illuminated by flares, gracing the shadows with some visibility. The outlines of figures in the distance, with not so much emphasis on their insignia or brand, added to the paranoia of living through such dangerous encounters.

It was visually emphatic, from beginning to end, and the blend of immense actors in this cameo cast is brilliant. They interject with prowess and carry the film in those segregated moments commendably. The likes of Colin Firth, as General Erinmore, the man who gave the mission, Mark Strong as Captain Smith, Benedict Cumberbatch as Colonel Mackenzie, Daniel Mays as Sergeant Sanders, and a Stark in Richard Madden who plays the brother of Lance Corporal Blake, Lieutenant Joseph Blake. The acting was all around wonderful, and it made it that much more exciting to see such a prominent cast accept these supporting roles. As well as the beautiful visuals, 1917’s score withdrew more suspense as it engaged with the grittiness of the situations. Even though dialogue was controlling enough, the score was planted mindfully, setting off like mines in moments of unease, such as breaching secure lines for the enemy’s and venturing into the wilderness of unseeing light. As well as those clean transitions of scenes, the score lulls you into a change of tone and mood. This is masterfully done, and in an odd way it reminded me of the Joker. It felt as if the score was engineered for these moments perfectly.

In short, 1917 is a stunning spectacle that commands respect. While it was expected to continue the theme of War films sweeping the best awards at the Oscars, Parasite (2019) had seemingly buried expectations by collecting Best Picture. To trump this grand film in its moment of glory surely infers something great to me, hence I expect to review it next.

Queen & Slim | FILM REVIEW | by Jude Yawson.

Rating: 3/5

Runtime: 1H 59

Director: Melina Matsoukas

Production Company: 3BlackDot, Bron Creative, Makeready, De La Revolución Films, Hillman Grad Productions

Queen & Slim

Whenever I watch a film composed by an orchestra of Black and/or ethnic minorities, I believe its reception will be split by those who identify with such distinctions. Hence, Black trauma always evokes an emotional chemistry within me I feel, a white mainstay in audience will not. I felt it whimper in my heart as I watched Black Panther, several times, witnessing Black children run around the cinema in Black superhero costumes, a scene I had never acknowledged I’d see before. I read it within reviews and the ridiculous extensions of critics of Blue Story, and the association to incidents of violence nationwide. I sensed it in the reactions of the audience in the few times I watched Get Out. Where White moviegoers snigger at what could be consumed as comedic to them, added to the unease the Black audience conceived as relatable everyday microaggressions, in which a majority identified with wanting to fold into themselves at the awkwardness of how real every moment was and could be. Get Out was the film that made me realise that division was the brunt of our different perceptions. How numerous white critics witnessed Get Out as a comedy, as did many film award categories, due to an incapability of relating to such livelihoods/a privilege they are perched on, whereas a majority of its Black audience recognised it as a Horror, a Thriller even, that contains aspects of well-worked comedy. I always refer to this commonality as negritude, insofar as we will always receive this content differently to that mainstay of Western Societies. Queen and Slim is another beautiful film that encapsulates the Black experience in a romantic, invigorative and visually absorbing manner.

Down & Out?

By no means is Queen and Slim as epic as Get Out or entrancing as Black Panther. Nevertheless, I have always wanted cinema to reach a point where Black stories can be told without it needing to be outstanding in every sense. Written by Lena Waithe, Queen and Slim as it joked itself has been conceived as a “Black Bonnie and Clyde” and yet it is not a romanticised stint of criminal endeavour they are running from. It is the harsh realities of injustice, the unlikelihood of the right thing, and the vilification of their actions as black individuals – as well as people simply opposing the law. What was illuminating to me in this film was the contrast of relationships, the looming tension and expectation of trauma that desensitises while lulling you into the favour of Queen and Slim’s adventure. It is brilliantly done in most parts, and I was amazed at the opening scene. It starts in a gloomy green diner in the middle of Ernest (Daniel Kaluuya) and Angela’s (Jodie Turner-Smith) first Tinder date which turns out to be an overextended run. There is a comfortability as the conversation starts in the middle, with their tones set from their body language and responses. Ernest seems humbled by a gratefulness of being, in a sense of being at ease with the goodness he receives – which in this case is food. The cook forgot to scramble his eggs and he is fine with that, knowing of her background to a point he empathises with her mistake, and yet Angela’s meticulousness points this out as an issue for her. She comes across as stiff, hard to impress, articulate and too honest. The pair’s date is seemingly in tatters, and she points out she only dated him after considering his depressive outlook on his profile pics as in need of a date. It was a pity pick, in which Ernest doesn’t mind until she is damning enough to alienate him. It comes across as an honest and realistic relationship, that builds over time through a silent tone of identity that acts as a prompt to act from. Hence when stopped by a white snappy and presumably racist cop, the identity and trauma sink in. With police brutality such a prominent issue in America, along with dash cams, the vastness of the Internet, the tone sets itself. An altercation ensues with the aggressor cop that becomes gun-happy, and Queen and Slim become romanticised for their lucky escape. Instead of focusing on the wider world and the conceptions of the incident, the film focuses on their relationship on a journey to salvation. It contains a bearable and lovely light spread of characters, such as Uncle Earl (Bokeem Woodbine) who is Angela’s estranged Uncle, Goddess (Indya Moore) one of his prostitutes, Junior (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) the sun of a hardworking mechanic, and others who are people seemingly privy to this viral situation. Their interjections are strong, and dialogue, as well as the smoothness of their moments, serves the flow of the film.

A stop on the way South

It becomes entrancing by the cinematography, stunning visuals, at times with dialogue overriding shots that capture the motions of their journey. The cinematography by Tat Radcliffe, known for 71 (2014) by Yann Demange and to me personally for capturing episodes in the 1st season of Top Boy, carries a personal touch that keeps you engaged in the setting. He does not fret to hover over views from a distance, or intensify the moments with in-depth shots that immerse you into the action, such as a spellbinding view of intimacy and hard-hitting shots of facial transformation. The cinematography marries a beautiful score pieced together by Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, which honeymoons over scenes that seamlessly intertwine as the cast is so contained within the bouncing journey of people, that they can either trust or must place their trust in. As the film is focused on Queen and Slims rampant relationship it is empowered by this awkward journey to the South. I refer to these relationships as negritude because moments of that common trust and relief come through that likelihood of blackness, a hopeful empathy that is not available in most cases, as we see on-screen and in reality. “Stop killing us” and “Let them go” protested in scenes as people realise this common theme of Police brutality. Although some moments were wayward in terms of writing, the film carries sentiments that illustrate the beauty and humanity of people. It does not uphold the system to be all-powerful but acknowledges the extent to which people can act.

Not so Slim, Ernest

Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie-Turner Smith are fascinating actors. Both Black British and phenomenal in their display, they captured the beauty and elements of those tricky relationships and values. They step into these characters and changed conceptions of them, even in the enthralling pictures of their scenes before the film’s arrival. Whether it is within their own characters, conceptions of God, their families and ties, as well as their eagerness to reconnect with a reality taken from them. The concept of being immortalised and becoming a hero, being present in the here and now, adds tint to the romance of the film. The smoothness of the soundtrack, alongside the illustrious cinematography, seems masterfully pieced together and directed by Melina Matsoukas. She is a renowned director of music videos, commercials, TV, and I was initially surprised to learn she was the director of Beyonce’s tantalising Formation (2018) video, as well as We Found Love, S&M by Rihanna, along with her other lists of commendable accolades. She also directed episodes of Insecure, which made a lot more sense in terms of some scene’s visuals and the plot behind them. Her feature-length film debut is stunning, and although I sometimes witness content based on Black trauma as emotionally exhausting, a double-edged sword of, sometimes, necessity, the prodding was not so cutthroat but rather enlightening, endearing and enjoyable.

Joker – Remember…That’s Life – Review by Jude Yawson

Rating: 4.5/5 

Runtime: 2H 2M

Director: Todd Phillips

Production Company: Warner Bros, DC Films, Village Roadshow Pictures

A stark contrast of surroundings illuminates Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) as he sits in front of a mirror applying his infamous face mask. A zooming camera shot hints toward surrounding activity, a working days score of everyday noises ambience in chatter, card games and radio play, and the odd man himself, Arthur, who is not engaged with anything except his own face. He looks a lonely and pitiful figure. A clown, literally and by curse, who aspires to be a comedian while remaining the brunt of everyone’s jokes. The visceral camera focus and sullen tone of Gotham only enthuse the perception of this man’s loneliness and glaring weirdness from the moment the film begins. But most importantly it keeps you fixated on this individual’s story and asks you to watch. For me, the Joker is a film that asks you to take a look at yourself and how you reflect and impact other people’s lives. From the beginning, it is prompting you to consider “what is wrong with this guy?” by the end of the film you may be thinking “what is wrong with people?” and more importantly, questioning how you treat them. Having watched the film twice now, I understand why it led me to feel that way and I wanted to dive into its creation by expanding on the words of the creators themselves.

Overall, I think the Joker is a wonderful film, with enthralling cinematography that at times is simply spell bounding. Joaquin Phoneix’s display as Arthur Fleck was wonderful insofar as he lost 52lbs for the role, immersed himself in understanding the setting, and would spend hours at night discussing with Todd Phillips how they could play with so many aspects of the story. In an interview with Peter Travers, he explained his working relationship with Todd and how such collaboration is what excites him about filmmaking. He described the process as transformative, his most intense collaboration for a film. They bounced ideas back off each other constantly, and there was even a suggestion they go for a heavier route with the Joker instead of the skinny and frail. Although, his harrowing looks in the film is another facet of this character and the weight loss had to happen. Joaquin felt way more in tune with his body throughout this process, it was somewhat holistic and encouraged him to perform beyond his means. As a result, this impacted the character along the way. Specifically, this reminded me of a scene where the Joker frolics and dances. Joaquin stated he was starved at times during filming, and he very much looked it. What was captivating to me was his style while donning full makeup. He dances like a pantomime, swivels like a ballet dancer, but looks and acts like a maniacal clown.  All this fused with a stunning score that creeps alongside your thoughts, it is a perfect marriage of notions portraying an unease. From the way Arthur expresses himself, the tailormade clown-shoes to the running style and childlike tone in voice, all were specific and necessary for his character to work.

As an origin story it seeps the Joker into a desolate and starved Gotham, the cast is not unnecessarily spread, and nothing felt out of place. It was a neatly contained movie and a standalone story that alluded to a few renditions of the Joker’s elusive past but did not relegate its potential to be fixed on just one. I find this was masterfully and purposefully done. Though very much grounded in the hypothetical city of Gotham, Todd Phillips, the director of the film, stated he witnessed the entirety of Gotham’s elements as characters alongside the Joker/Arthur Fleck, as it is an individual story. Hence the music, location and time-period, were all very much important. The film is set in 1981, and Gotham is on the brink in many ways. This is the basis Arthur Fleck develops from. My understanding of the Joker is as a phenomenon with multiple origins, one of the main nemeses of Batman’s, and a thrilling wildcard obsessed with rattling people’s cages. Though this film is different and exposed a route to understanding what could lead to ‘The Joker’ in this hypothetical setting. At its bare bones, the film itself makes me consider how we interact with people on a human level. There is a “one-upmanship” with communication, where we impose on each other, we see someone as weaker, a joke, and demean them whether playfully or at their expense, we are naturally inconsiderate by just how we exist. There’s a cold shoulder, lack of accountability and expectation to see people or help by not contributing to the animosity in already stressed lives. It contains a lot of nuance and elements of Gotham that mimic real inner swollen city livelihoods. Such as the coldness in acknowledging people, the preconceptions and status we exact on each other and the volatile and damaged states of mind.

I really appreciated Todd Phillips interpretation of Gotham and Joaquin Phoneix’s brilliance in acting. The film truly has a handmade feel. Another thing that impressed me was Todd asking the composer Hildur Guðnadóttir to write music, based only off material she read in the script. Joaquin’s performances were inspired by the sound written to the music, and I find that fantastic. Hildur also composed the Chernobyl (2019) series music, which makes a lot of sense, and the score is dark, unnerving and is very much a presence in the film. As someone who loves a score, I adore the composition of the film. Joaquin also had the freedom to utilise a room and see where he saw it best fit to perform a part of the script. Todd describes this all as the magic of making movies, and it certainly had an ethereal touch. Thinking about it, I actually love this film. It ticks all the impressionable boxes for me. Instead of a now usual Comic Book genre type film with “big CGI events” as Todd describes it, we received a deep dive into a character and the daunting city they’re from. There’s no overcooked action sequence that occurs just to show the violent range of the protagonist.

Joker is a perplexing story that recognises trauma through the lens of a psychological thriller. In conclusion, when asked about the criticism of mental health issues being related to an infamous character like Joker Joaquin stated how irresponsible it is to discuss. In this social media age, we do tend to look to critique and cancel as it’s a culture. For such media platforms to threat over cinema shootings or violence is indirectly inspiring, Todd Phillips even made some comments on this “woke culture” and how it has impacted comedy, this was his first thriller and it was more than well done. Similarly, to ideas within the film, I do not think woke culture has entirely overridden comedy, but it is more-so weary of the impact we have on each other. To what degree its concerns should be capitalised on I am unsure, but as long as the conversation is recognised and not simply damning, we always have something to learn.

Three nine two…months in

Author of The 392 Ashley Hickson-Lovence tells us about his first two months as a published debut author.

It was moments after I had just got off the Megabus at Stratford that I finally felt like a proper published author. I hopped off the coach and braved Westfield to have a look in Foyles and, as I entered, I immediately spotted my recognisably red and black cover sitting alongside the likes of Michelle Obama, Candice Carty-Williams, Akala, Jeffrey Boakye and others under the ‘Foyles Choice’ section. I had spotted The 392 in shops before – sometimes on the main table, sometimes hidden on a shelf, sometimes on a trolley – but this sight took me by surprise, being in such esteemed company felt special.

My little novel is told from different passengers’ perspectives as a single-decker London bus negotiates the gentrified streets of Hackney and Islington. We hear from a range of different characters, of varying ages and backgrounds, over the course of 36 minutes as a suspected terrorist loiters at the front shouldering a cumbersome rucksack. Today, two months after its release, I’ve been reassured that The 392 continues to sell steadily which is a pleasant relief. I knew in signing with an indie press, with a small/non-existent marketing budget, it would be a much slower burn compared to releasing it with a bigger publishing house. This is not to say that this has been to the detriment of the success of the book so far; in just two months there have been some incredible highs. The London launch at Second Home London Fields in April for example, was probably the best night of my life. Former colleagues, friends and family all joined me to celebrate The 392’s release into the world in style. In a packed programme hosted by JJ Bola, featuring a Q+A with writing royalty Irenosen Okojie and mesmerising poetry performances by Deshawn McKinney, MC Angel, Sophia Thakur and Suli Breaks, there is no doubt that this was another example of a fantastic OWN IT! launch event.

Since then, I have had a second smaller but equally lovely launch at Norwich’s The Book Hive, appeared twice at Stoke Newington Literary Festival, including as part of a ‘Rising Stars’ panel alongside Elizabeth Macneal and Rosie Price. I have been on BBC Radio London twice with Robert Elms and Judi Love. I featured on an episode of Tim Clare’s ‘A Death of a 1000 Cuts’ podcast. Publishing superwoman Sharmaine Lovegrove said that The 392 made her “laugh, cry, nod and remember what it means to be a Londoner” on Twitter. Fellow bus fanatic and writer Travis Elborough said “the whole thing had such pace” and the “plot was compulsive”. Even Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been pictured handling my book.

All this, and more, in just eight weeks. Although, one of my proudest moments was when a close friend messaged me to say it was the first book that they had read cover to cover, ever. This for me epitomised one of my main initial aims when writing The 392, to engage reluctant readers.

I am still somewhat anxious of having people read – and sometimes review – my work but I try my best to embrace it. I had very particular aims when writing The 392 and for these reasons I appreciate it mightn’t be to everyone’s taste. I wanted it to be a pacey, accessible read, quintessentially British, written in an authentic youthful vernacular at times to appeal to, among others, some of my former students I used to teach. Although I label it a love letter to London, the wider themes of gentrification, otherness, growing old and unconditional love are hopefully relatable to readers from all walks of life, so I am encouraged by hearing from readers – who are sometimes not even from London – engage with and enjoy this story I’ve written.

I am so grateful to everyone who has taken the time to read or review The 392 or tweet me a picture of them reading it on holiday or on a bus! This really means a lot. I hope to continue to be just as generous when I read new works I enjoy. I am ridiculously excited about what the future holds for The 392 and otherwise; excitingly, as part of my Creative Writing PhD, I have already started work my second novel. I also have some very exciting events lined up in the coming months, including: Riff Raff (July 4th), Africa Writes (July 6th), Greyhound on the Green book club appearance (July 23rd), WOMAD (July 27th), Primadonna Festival (30th August); I look forward to hopefully getting the book into more people’s hands and sharing my story as a young, black, working-class debut novelist.

If you haven’t already, you can buy a copy of The 392 from all good bookshops (including lots of London indies) as well as Amazon, Waterstones and the OWN IT! online shop. I have already had some lovely ratings and reviews on Goodreads, Amazon and Waterstones but I would greatly appreciate some more if can spare five minutes, I’ve been told these can make a big difference.