Let me give you a snapshot of me back when I read the first installment of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I was 17. I was working in a school to career program my high school offered at an industrial museum the next state over, giving tours and avoiding the spooky wax figures that peopled the space. I spent my recreational hours acting in children’s theatre (due to my husky proportions, pallid complexion and severe jawline I was frequently cast as ‘mom’ or ‘grandmother’ or ‘ghost of an old, fatter, lady.’), perfecting the art of the bad dye job to go with my bad attitude, learning all the words to Rent, and planning what I would wear to prom with the adorable faux rocker who’d agreed to accompany me.

Now let’s look at me tonight, watching the filmic conclusion of the same series.

It’s eleven years later. The creepy wax sculptures have been replaced by moving ones, financiers, but the eerie quality is the same. My recreational time is spent hunched in front of a computer, my pallid complexion and severe jaw line dedicated to the higher pursuit of spurting out internet badinage, though as a plus my bad attitude has given way to a laid back, if still, neurotic demeanor.  I haven’t dyed my hair in two years, and while Rent refuses to leave my head, no musical has really ever caught me up that way since, the sweet boy I went to prom with eleven years ago is dead, and here I am in the palliative dark of the movie theatre, skin made goose-flesh by air conditioning from the 1950s, choking back keening sobs as I regard Hogwarts’ ruins: like our band of heroes, Harry, Ron, and Hermione, we are none of us the same as when this journey began. It is a fact all at once wonderful, tragic, and inescapable.

Director David Yates – a Potter veteran – is tasked with the mammoth task of closing this saga, and he does it deftly. While Potter’s inestimable battalion of directors have done the franchise service – Chris Columbus guiding us back into the world of childhood wonder, Alfonso Cuarón proffering that same world’s darker side – it is Yates who has woven together, and with a lighter trusting hand, let the brilliantly plotted novels do their work on the story free of any sort of trademark directorial heaviness.

A word of warning, if you have not watched the movies or read the books recently and intend to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and you are over the age of 21, or my mom, do yourself a solid and do so. As the this is final chapter, and the continuation of another film, Yates makes the assumption that you’re up to speed, allowing approximately negative two minutes of recap before picking up the quest for the horcruxes and the mission to end Voldemort once and for all.

And a suggestion if I may – do your heart a favor and watch the film in two-dimensions. It is JK Rowling’s theme of love as a form of life after death that takes center stage here, and you do not need doxies flying up your nose to be wowed. The production design by Stuart Craig with editing by Mark Day and stunning visual effects by Tim Burke and John Richardson are rich and incandescent and as close to my own imaginings of the Potterworld (sorry, a little did there) as any film has come. Besides, 3-D films are a trend we’ll mock in ten years like we mock smell-o-vision. Remember smell-o-vision? No? Exactly.

I won’t spoil anything, and the film is true to the book, (Except in this movie Hagrid becomes a unicorn and has gay sex with Draco in an field of ruby red roses) so if you’re coming to this movie to be shocked…you won’t be. Except by one truly remarkable thing. You guys: Daniel Radcliffe is superb. I KNOW! I was going to title this review “Daniel Radcliffe: Now With More Acting) but that just seems mean. Even the most fervent Radcliffe supporters will agree – he’s come a long way, baby. Gone is the awkward baby-faced boy with the Potter look but not quite the chops and in his place is a man who – if not the next Olivier – so desperately wants to learn the craft. As usual, Radcliffe is at his best when he’s so ably supported by Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. It’s a delight to watch them work together, especially in this final chapter when we are greeted with the sure, confident, grim and determined Potter, who Radcliffe feels infinitely more comfortable playing as opposed to whiny, conflicted, Hamlet-lite version of Harry we are forced to slag along with halfway through the series. I can honestly say, Daniel Radcliffe has never elicited any other response in me but “That dude totally looks like my baby brother,” but today, watching him alone in the forest, quietly accepting of his future and saying, “I am ready to die now,” I wept like the bitch that I am.

Ron and Hermione make out and that is awesome, if, for some reason a little gross – probably because I am old. It’s also awesome to see Emma Watson work so well with so little – in comparison to other chapters of the story.  Her face upon realizing that Ron actually listens when she talks? ADORABLE. Her impersonation of Bellatrix Lestrange was hilarious, and aided infinitely by the incomparable Helena Bonham Carter.

Poor, poor, Rupert Grint. You weren’t your best in this chapter. Were you insecure because you were doughy shirtless beside Radcliffe and his six pack (whaaaat? Weird.) ? Were you unintelligible because you resented all the one-liners foisted upon you? Were you so, so, so mad that in the epilogue everyone else was hot but they made you hilariously dumpy? So dumpy! It was great! Ha ha, the epilogue.

Other acting highlights include Alan Rickman at his Alan Rickmaniest. He was awesome but he was wearing too much eyeshadow and I was distracted by the apparent widening of his face that is happening with age. Ralph Fiennes stole the show as always and kind of reminded me of my cat if my cat was an evil wizard. I cannot wait for images of this shit to be on the web, because I will be making hella gifs involving Voldemort hugging on peeps – BECAUSE THAT HAPPENS! Deathly Hallows Part 2 FTW!

Two bones of contention – and maybe this first one is because I saw it in 2D. The shift from what I believed was hand-held digital ( I know!) to something akin to like, the Red, was jarrrrrrrring, like, enough so that I was all like “Wait, am I watching Traffic now? WHAT IS HAPPENING?” and secondly – if you had mixed feelings about the book, you’ll have mixed feelings about the movie. Especially the ending. If you spent the better part of the decade waiting for Harry and the gang to complete their quest, you might find yourself unsettled by the scene following the climax.

And the epilogue. Oh the epilogue. Rowling’s concession to fandom made even more fanfic-errific by the decision in the film to have the same actors play themselves….19 years later. I was entertained but it was pretty bogus, in my opinion. Also, and I can articulate this now in a way I couldn’t upon finishing the last book – seeing their kids off to Hogwarts, great, sweet, ushering in the next generation but also – do they not remember their school years? Sure, they got Christmas feasts, and quidditch and sorting hats, but they also got murder, betrayal and abject destruction. A little twinge of mixed feelings would’ve been nice.

This series has been a crucial touchstone in many people’s lives in a way that something like Twilight never will be. If Twilight is a major touchstone in your life come near to me so we can have a conversation. And by we I mean me and this pointy stick.

The movie’s tagline – It all ends here – is frankly perfect. Sure, we get the happy ending we all ache form, but nothing is really same. Just ask Harry’s crow feet.

Deathly Hallows After Dark