The grass is greener

Dominic Thomas
Feb 2024  •  4 min read

The grass is greener

Hedwig walks her ageing mother Linna into the large garden where the grandchildren are playing…

LINNA: It’s huge. I’m speechless.

HEDWIG; It’s all my design. All the planting and everything. The greenhouse, the gazebo at the end.

LINNA: Is that a pool?

HEDWIG: Yes. I have gardeners. I couldn’t do it alone.

LINNA: With a slide? Oh Heddy.

(There’s a child-sized wooden row boat on the lawn next to the pool).

HEDWIG :Do you like it?

LINNA: Of course I like it. How could I not?

HEDWIG: This was a field three years ago. We just had the lower garden by the street. And the house had a flat roof.

LINNA: It’s hard to believe. (Linna turns). And that’s the camp wall?

HEDWIG :Yes, that’s the camp wall. We planted more vines at the back to grow and cover it. LINNA: Maybe Esther Silberman is over there.

HEDWIG :Which one was she?

LINNA: The one I used to clean for. She was the one who had the book readings.

HEDWIG: Oh, yes.

(Screenplay Zone of Interest by Jonathan Glazer based on the novel by Martin Amis.

Zone of Interest is a film that I suspect few will see; yet it is nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA. My experience of it was one of utter horror, staring into the blank face of evil, arguably the most uncomfortable watch that I have ever endured. Most people haven’t heard about the film – it is subtitled and largely in German.

In the excerpt above, we witness how detached from normal life Hedwig and her family have become. Of course, the extent of this detachment reveals a psychopathic nature, but, nevertheless it is a reminder of how far people go to block out the sight of horror. Hedwig is the wife of Rudolf Hoss, SS commander at Auschwitz.

Of course, this is horror of their deliberate making and approval, something barely imaginable, yet part of our modern history in which millions were murdered. Hedwig’s home sits next to the camp fence, the contrast in life experience could not be more stark, yet both share the same polluted air and weather.

Unless you are psychopathic yourself (you are not, if you are reading my blog!) it will be a harrowing experience to watch this film. We do not witness any violence, there is no need to, we hear the regular gunshots, the sounds of women being separated from their children, new arrivals by freight train and the smoke billowing from the chimneys.

Whilst being a poignant, historical reminder of crimes against humanity that we must never forget, it is also perhaps a metaphor for how I (and we all) manage to avoid looking at horrible things. Whatever our life circumstances, it’s not Auschwitz. Our relative peace and security, comfort, good fortune are not experienced by all. As humans, we have to turn away from horror in order to survive, we cannot constantly look without becoming consumed by it. Social media rapidly reveals the extremities of life around the world into the palm of our hands, we have to scroll past or choose not to look. I have no answers (well, few..) for this; other than it is our common experience and we all filter things out … we have to.

For most of us, we simply want to ensure that our lives remain good, prosperous and that our families have and maintain a sense of security in a broken and fragile world. I do not have a single client who is determined to simply amass as much as they can, which I suspect is a criticism of those who refuse to seek financial advice. The sort of people I work with have a sense of what is ‘enough’ and are not seeking to outdo the billionaires.

The grass is sometimes greener on the other side, but the Faustian price of it is always too high for anyone who wishes to have a connected life. We may have a philosophical opinion on the differences between needs, wants, desires and greed; the truth, as is often the case, is hard to distinguish except at the extremities.

Good financial planning is full of your goals for life; great financial planning is infused with your values as well.

As for the film, I believe that it is important, for precisely the reasons you imagine but it is a very difficult experience. As I imagine is intended, I did not care for any of the central characters, I didn’t even want to look at the screen as ‘matters were discussed’ as though  merely regular business meetings.  It was an endurance test for the viewer, but of course is nothing compared to those who briefly resided on the other side of the wall.

The grass is greener2024-02-16T14:12:19+00:00



There are few films that I have seen that are as disturbing as Elle. Yet is it also a wonderful movie that I’d encourage anyone (over 16) to see. Arguably this is one of the most reflective tales of the current societal state of disassociation, but reduced to the sketches of the personal life of Michele Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert). I might go a little further to suggest that there is arguably a little too much thrown into the film, but that all rather depends on how you interpret.

Make no mistake, this is a traumatic movie. It begins with a rape scene which sets the story in motion and how the viewer reacts to this and the subsequent information. The setting of a severely dysfunctional family provides the context for the series of choices that emerge. There is no attempt to explain or pacify the viewer. This is a harsh, brutal look at “real life” and contemporary life.

A day of signficant trauma

I am conscious of tension that I really don’t want to spoil the film for you, yet wish to convey some of the plot. What is explained is that Michele is the daughter of a devout Catholic man who had managed to repress some of horrific feelings, which are then released in a day of carnage in her childhood and her mass murdering father is imprisoned. There are no explanations or justifications. What follows is assumed to be built upon the backlash of hatred towards the family. It is this trauma upon which Michele gradually builds her life. Relationships are inevitably strained and detached.

This virtual reality

In many respects, what we accept as normal, or ordinary without a questioning mind can leave us all somewhat detached from reality. It also leaves us poorer within a context that could be so much better. This is not a film about victim mentality, but of passive, detached voyeurism. Whether that be the obviously disturbing video game violence or the inability to value relationship. A religious persona that masks deep violence and crime against other. A simple a lack of honesty or inability to take responsibility, all the while soothed by a plethora of cute cat videos and nice cars. We are the sum of our choices.

The sum of your choices

So, what on earth has this to do with financial planning? I would argue that your choices are significant. A choice to do nothing is still a choice. People worry about money, but do little to address those concerns, making the choice to defer, to delay. Time is against us. It is the one resource that we all have equally today. The choices you are making compound into a result. Financial planning provides the space and opportunity for you to reflect on what you genuinely value, to challenge your own thinking and the narrative of our consumer culture. However, we all have a past, some have experienced awful traumas, this needs to be addressed if a better future is to be created. We all have limitations, but almost all have unlimited desires. A sense of peace and direction can be achieved when these are identified thoughtfully and respectfully.

The lubricant of modern life

Many people are detached from their finances, seeing them merely as a necessary lubricant for getting through life. Yet finance is active, we invest globally. We know the power of money and the pain of not having enough. Money can be violent or it can bring respite and relief. Somehow a healthy balanced view towards money needs to be constructed by each of us, which can act as the map to get us where we really want to be. In short, to be engaged with your finances, your financial plan needs to reflect your values – the real ones, some of which may be painful.

Here is the trailer for this very good, but disturbing movie, which has collected several awards and for which Isabelle Huppert is nominated for an Oscar as Best Leading Actress.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email


Nocturnal Animals, skin-deep values

Nocturnal Animals

The stories we tell ourselves invariably shape our lives. The choices we make about a partner, a spouse or a career are born of our own life experiences, encouragements and admonishments.  In our culture, success, invariably translates as material wealth. Increasingly this is underlined by fame or notoriety, where maintaining an image is all. Nocturnal Animals explores these ideas.


Traditionally within financial services, we have all been encouraged to want rather more. More will make us happier. To define our success by the amount of our net worth.  When I began advising, over a quarter of a century ago, the mantra of the day by those leading and training new recruits was to encourage over-reach. To ensure that advisers were sufficiently motivated (hungry) to achieve sales.  We were encouraged to appear successful, to be the success we wanted, despite not yet possessing any. Many took this as instruction to buy and acquire the things that presented the appearance of success, getting into debt in the process. This created further imperative to sell. The world of the adviser was very much “eat what you kill” which in short meant, if you don’t sell, you don’t eat. Almost everyone was self-employed.

Pressured Living

The result of a commission only culture, was unsurprising. “Advisers” were under huge pressure to make a living – which involved selling policies. This resulted in high-pressured sales and of course the bigger the commission the better. Anyone that genuinely wanted to advise clients fairly (by which I mean, not to rip off) was generally derided and ridiculed for their paltry earnings and stance.

Stand up, get out, shake up

Those advisers and firms that wanted a more ethical, sustainable approach had to choose to go against the grain, charging fees in a world of “free advice”.  There were not many and it was only in 2013 that the regulation was put in place to make this the case, though it’s still half-baked now.

Predators and wild beasts

The stories we tell ourselves, to justify our actions are important and explored in the gripping, violent and intense drama of “Nocturnal Animals”. Exploring the base elemental instincts of desire, hunger and longing for success. Like animals on the prowl, laying traps for prey. The villain of the film, Ray Marcus, is utterly horrible and brought to life with a performance that will leave you sleepless by Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

Now you see me…

Today the entrapments are ever more subtle, though I’m sure Shakespeare and others would contend otherwise. Hiding a lie between two truths, disguising fact for fiction and vice versa (how Shakespearian right?). In the film, art dealer Susan (Amy Adams) is confronted with truths about her past that go some way to explaining her current malaise. The revelations are presented in a gripping, horrifying work of fiction. There are discomforting lessons for Susan and for us all. Who and what we choose to listen to and believe, has consequences, contrary to the narrative that implies otherwise.

Knowing not wanting

Whether you are a client, an adviser or just checking out our website, the key to knowing what we (all) really want and what we (all) value, requires understanding what and who we don’t want to be. As for Nocturnal Animals, it has both style and substance. As for the financial services industry, it still lives with the legacy of the past, as do many investors. Here is the trailer for Nocturnal Animals, an enthralling film by Tom Ford…

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email

Nocturnal Animals, skin-deep values2023-12-01T12:18:46+00:00
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