Moonlight: not your typical coming of age film. The story takes place in Miami. We meet the protagonist as a young boy (Alex Hibbert), then as an adolescent (Ashton Sanders) and finally as an adult (Trevante Rhodes). Each actor does a superb job of portraying an individual who fails to fit within his society’s given models. During the course of this 110 minute film by Barry Jenkins (director and co-writer), we vicariously experience drug abuse, school violence and some of the difficult issues relating to sex and sexuality identity. The film is based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCranney. I understand the film runs true to the play. The story opens with the protagonist as a young boy called “Little”. He is being raised by Paula, a single, crack addicted mother played brilliantly by Naomie Harris. Her crack dealer is Juan (Mahershala Ali), who happens to meet Little through other circumstances. Juan takes a liking to Little and begins to take care of him like a son. There is a very tender scene where Juan, who was born in Cuba, teaches Little how to swim. There is another scene in which Juan reminisces about his own childhood and explains to Little the importance of defining himself and not letting others do it for him. Then Juan, Paula and Little recognize the dots that connect them to each other. I would like to have known more about Juan. During the middle portion of this film, school violence is a focal point. Our protagonist is called Chiron. This segment includes a troubling sequence of events involving Chiron’s long time schoolmate, Kevin. We see Kevin in all three segments of this film; Jaden Piner plays Kevin as a boy, Jharrel Jerome as an adolescent, and Andre Holland as an adult. The adult segment shows Kevin placing a late night call to Black, an adult now living in Atlanta. The three segments come together with a positive link between Kevin and Black and a positive relationship between Black and his mother. There is a violent undercurrent running through this film but scenes of actual violence are minimal and brief. At the end, you will be pleased to have met Little/Chiron/Black and will be glad to have had the opportunity to travel with him on his painful and difficult road to adulthood. I believe Moonlight will receive a few Oscar nominations. Although it’s been a week since I saw this film, a number of the scenes continue to flash into my mind and linger.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Loving: a true life love story. This is the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the individuals who challenged Virginia’s law banning Blacks and Whites from marrying each other. In 1967, by ruling in favor of the Lovings, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Virginia passed its first anti-miscegenation law in 1691. This film, however, does not focus on the law’s 276 year history nor is it a legal drama. Rather, Loving is a story about the relationship between Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga). The movie opens in 1956 with Mildred telling Richard she is pregnant. Richard is very pleased and, in a subsequent scene, asks Mildred to marry him. Knowing that such a marriage was banned in Virginia, the couple drives to Washington D. C. Upon their return, Richard proudly hangs their marriage license in the home they share with Mildred’s family. Richard’s mother, who lives in a neighboring house, is the midwife to this rural Virginia community. A short while later, the local sheriff (Marton Csokas) arrests the Lovings in the middle of the night. It is from the sheriff that we learn about the community where Richard and Mildred have spent most of their lives. It is racially mixed with considerable Native American bloodlines, which explains in part why Mildred identified herself as Indian on the marriage license. Because the community is self-contained and located in an insular rural area, it did not seem unreasonable for Mildred and Richard to believe they could live together in peace despite Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute. The film tracks the Lovings’ personal life from 1956 until the 1967 Supreme Court decision, including their time living in D. C. Both the court scenes and the meetings with the ACLU lawyers Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) and Phil Hirschkop (Jon Bass as) are brief. Jeff Nichols directed this 123 minute film and also wrote the screenplay. His telling of Richard and Mildred’s story affords you a full understanding of their deep love for each other and their children. Nichols relies significantly on the 2011 documentary, The Loving Story, which is also worth seeing. Nichols clearly understands rural America (see his 2012 film Mud with Matthew McConaughey). The acting throughout this film is first rate. Edgerton totally nails Richard and you will be blown away by his performance. Also, of special note, is Michael Shannon’s brief appearance as the Life magazine photographer. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and highly recommend it.
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
A Man Called Ove: a Swedish comedy-drama. When we first meet Ove (Rolf Lassgard), we meet a stereotypic Grumpy Old Man. Although his grumpiness never fully goes away, we discover during the course of the film that Ove is not really that old (59). We also learn about his life, the reasons why he is so grumpy, and that Ove is a truly decent human being who is grieving deeply for his recently deceased wife. After the introductory sequence, we watch as Ove attempts to kill himself. His effort, however, is interrupted - again and again and again - each time by an intervening and humorous event. With each interrupted suicide we learn a bit more about Ove. As it turns out, Ove has lived an eventful life filled with good deeds and blessed by a wonderful marriage. The movie opens a few months after Ove’s wife, Sonja (Ida Engvoll), passes from cancer. We get to know Sonja through charming scenes of Ove’s remembrances of their life together. Ove’s residence is part of a small homeowners association. Many of the owners ignore the regulations established by the Association but not Ove, who is rule and enforcement excessive. Into this tight community moves a young couple with two young children and another on the way. The husband is Swedish and from the general area. The wife is Iranian. Through kindness and persistence, Parvaneh (Bahar Pars) forms a relationship with Ove and, in the process, we learn even more about our character. Parvaneh and Ove develop a father–daughter relationship and the children think of Ove as their grandfather. Part of the reason their relationship grows is that Ove views Parvaneh’s husband, as he views most folks, as an idiot. The more we learn about Ove, the more respect and appreciation we have for him and the more we understand his tremendous grief over losing Sonja. Ove is a person who has endured tragedies but still managed to create a good life, until Sonja’s death. This 116 minute film is based upon Fredrik Backman’s 2012 bestselling Swedish novel of the same name. It is directed by Hannes Holm. The sub-titles are posted at a readable pace. There is far more humor in A Man Called Ove than this outline indicates. This is a very enjoyable film and, if you take the time to see it, you will be pleased to have met Ove.