Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Moonlight (2017)

Image is property of A24, Plan B Entertainment and Pastel Productions

Moonlight – Film Review

Cast: Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monáe, Mahershala Ali

Director: Barry Jenkins

Synopsis: Set in three distinct acts, chronicling the life of a young black boy growing up in Miami, charting his childhood, teenage years and finally his growth to adulthood.

Review: Growing up no matter who you are can be extremely difficult, no matter the circumstances. However, there is in certain parts of the world, a massive stigma that is attached towards people who are homosexual, which for any person in that situation, can be extremely difficult to come to terms with who you are. This makes Barry Jenkins’s coming of age drama about a young black boy growing up in a difficult Miami neighbourhood feel particularly relevant and poignant, what with the extremely delicate racial tensions occurring in the USA right now.

Adapted from In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, an unfinished play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, we follow young Chiron in three stages of his life: childhood, adolescence and adulthood (played in each by Hibbert, Sanders and Rhodes respectively). To say he leads a difficult life is an extreme understatement. Picked on at school, an absent father whose whereabouts are never disclosed,  a mother who is addicted to drugs (Harris) and facing questions about his sexuality. In comes Juan, a father figure to Chiron who fills that void that so desperately needed filling. With the help of Juan, Chiron seeks to find his place in the world.

YE-Film-Top 10

With three distinct acts, the film chooses to not do what Boyhood did and narrow its focus to a few quite specific points in this three very different stages of life. This first act is the Mahershala Ali show, he’s the figure that Chiron needs in his life right now and there are a few scenes in particular that feel raw and emotional. With the move to adolescence, Juan is now out of the picture and although Sanders’s performance feels very raw, Juan is sorely missed as his absence is really felt. Jenkins script and direction helps to capture that struggle that it’s quite possible every teenager goes through, which is only compounded when you’re getting ruthlessly picked on because of your sexuality.

However, despite the delicate themes that the film seeks to explore, there is something in Jenkins’s screenplay that feels absent. As emotionally impactful as the subject matter may be, there isn’t really enough to really engage the audience or to get them to care about Chiron perhaps as much as they should. The dialogue at times feels drawn out and aimless in its direction, and though there is some character development, there is not sufficiently enough to the point where you feel completely invested in the life of this young man as you really ought to, and the final act in particular drifts painfully aimlessly to an extremely melancholic conclusion.

Alongside Ali, Naomie Harris gives perhaps her best ever performance as Chiron’s drug addicted mother. A woman who clearly loves her son, but though she tries so hard to show it, her addiction really harms their relationship. Harris rightfully scooped an Oscar nomination for her impact performance, and Ali went one step further and also very deservedly became the first Muslim actor to win an acting Oscar.

Nicholas Britell’s accompanying score is also worthy of immense praise, adding to the raw emotion really effectively in particular scenes. The Best Picture gong at the 89th Academy Awards indicates that there is no shortage of admirers for Moonlight, but for a film that has such delicate subject matter, there was a real opportunity to make a powerful statement, but with such an uninspiring third act, it feels like a glorious opportunity squandered.

With great performances from Ali and Harris, there’s something to be admired about tackling such tricky subject matter, but the end result is just not as compelling in a way that it could, and perhaps ought to be.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)

Image rights belong to Pathe, Videovision Entertainment, Distant Horizon, Origin Pictures
Image rights belong to Pathe, Videovision Entertainment, Distant Horizon, Origin Pictures

Mandela: Walk to Freedom – Film Review

Cast: Idris Elba, Naomi Harris, Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa, Jamie Bartlett, Lindiwe Matshikiza, Terry Pheto, Deon Lotz

Director: Justin Chadwick

Synopsis:  An account of the life and journey of South Africa’s first ever black President. From his early years as a lawyer to his rise to political prominence, to his time spent in prison and finally his accession to Presidency of South Africa and bringing the end of apartheid.

Review: As the great man once said “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.” One of the many powerful quotes of the legend that is Nelson Mandela.  The life and legacy of the man and the legend is brought to the big screen in a powerful and emotive way.

The timing of the release of this film could not have been more poignant as Mandela sadly passed away in December 2013. Thankfully Mandela saw the film before he passed away. In its 2 hour and 20 minute run time, the film captures Mandela’s entire life. From his early beginnings as a young boy to his rise to prominence, his time spent in jail and last but not least the making of history by becoming the first black President of South Africa and bringing about the end of apartheid. The scenes in his early years are among the most powerful as it is shown how he went from a lawyer to a strong political activist. He was a man with a voice and people stopped and listened to what he had to say. Whatever he said, he said it well and people listened to what he had to say.

As the film captures Mandela’s life in its entirety, there are some events that are breezed over rather quickly. His early life as a lawyer is not explored in great depth and did feel a bit rushed. In spite of this, it would be a hard ask to cover every event of the man’s life in great detail and achieve that running time. However, the film definitely captures the key moments that made Mandela one of the greatest people of the 20th century. The moment where he has been sentenced to jail and leaves his wife Winnie behind are heart breaking to watch. The fleeting visits that Winnie makes are also tough to watch as you feel your heart break for the both of them.

The role of Mandela needed an actor to represent the charismatic individual that he was, and in this respect Idris Elba was perfect in the lead role.  He captured Mandela perfectly and had the compelling presence and influence that Mandela had in his early years. His voice and accent were also on the money. Elba’s performance was so convincing that Mandela believed he had actually made an appearance in the film.    As his time in jail goes on, while his charisma never diminishes, he becomes a patient and peaceful individual as his campaign to bring the end of apartheid goes to even while he spends the best part of thirty years in captivity.  Alongside Elba in the leading role, Naomi Harris also gives a strong performance as Winnie Mandela. The chemistry between her and Elba was strong.  Harris also goes on a transformation from a loving wife to a  political figure of rebellion.

The film does its best to capture the man and the legend. While some aspects are slightly touched upon, the film touches on the important events well and in this respect it hits all the right notes. A solid portrayal of Mandela  is provided by Idris Elba in what is arguably the best performance of his career to date. With an equally strong performance by Harris, the end product is a fitting tribute to the man who  made a substantial mark on the world and who will be remembered for decades to come.

Anchored by two excellent lead performances ensures that this biopic of one of modern history’s most influential leaders is a story worth telling.

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