Manchester by the Sea (2016) – Review

Review: In Manchester by the Sea, writer-director Kenneth Lonergan crafts a subtle chef-d’oeuvre of tragedy, involving grief and only grief. And by mentioning ‘tragedy’, what I mean is the ancient form of drama – based on human suffering that appeals audiences’ pleasure; therefore, that doesn’t mean it is a tear-jerking melodrama, although it indeed is a bitter story. And, if Lonergan is the god of this story, this god must have laughed over the tragedy-by-tragedy that strikes its main protagonist and the surroundings.

Grief is what force-starts everything in Manchester by the Sea. There we meet our man, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck with devotion), a handyman in Boston and a divorcee. The conspiring nature calls Lee back to his home town, a Massachusetts coast town, Manchester-by-the-Sea, following the death of his brother (Kyle Chandler). Lee is called to tend his brother’s son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), to mend his grief. Little did we know that the same town is where all Lee’s guilt and grief started; and, now, he must console his nephew from the pain Lee himself could not overcome. Continue reading “Manchester by the Sea (2016) – Review”

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Lion (2016) – Review

Review: Inarguably, the true event that inspires Garth Davis’ Lion is a blessing-in-disguise story. A five-year old Indian boy, Saroo (Sunny Pawar) gets lost while going away from home with his older brother. He’s stranded in Calcutta – 1,600KM away from home; survived hardships in street life, before being adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham), who lives in Tasmania.

Separated from his birth family and his compassionate brother, Saroo, now a Brierley (portrayed by Dev Patel), grows into a full-fledged Australian – who even forgets to speak Hindi. When hearing about Google Earth, Saroo becomes obsessed with it to trace down his memory lane in attempt to locate his home in India. Will he find his birth house after all? At this point, knowing how this story ends is moderately forgiven, because Lion isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey. Continue reading “Lion (2016) – Review”

Moonlight (2016) – Review

At a glance, Moonlight resembles the spirit of Richard Linklater’s magnum opus, Boyhood, in a way that it follows the twisted voyage of a boy to become man, embracing what matters in him. Yet, Moonlight puts twists into this self-discovery drama – challenging black male masculinity with fragility to mirror Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain in a different scale.

Writer-director Barry Jenkins adapts Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unperformed play titled ‘In Moonlight Black Boy Looks Blue’ into a three-phase story of a black gay boy’s self-maturation in which each chapter resembles the identity he embraces. As a boy, he’s Little (portrayed by Alex Hibbert), a little bully target taken under the wing of a crack-dealer, Juan (Mahershala Ali); as a teen, he’s Chiron (Ashton Sanders), a taciturn boy who finds love in his own best friend; and as a grown-up, he’s Black (Trevante Rhodes), embracing the identity given by his long-lost love. Three phases might define him differently, but his inner identity stays intact; waiting for acceptance that keeps troubling him. Continue reading “Moonlight (2016) – Review”

Hidden Figures (2017) – Review

Review: There were three African-American women working at NASA in circa 1960s and helping the institution sending man into space, winning the space competitions against the Soviets. Not everyone knows about that fact (me neither, in fact), until Hidden Figures comes and opens people’s eyes in the era where this substantial revelation is relevant. However, it’s never been a preachy, egghead’s story; instead, Theodore Melfi’s adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly’s non-fiction is a high-energized feel-good film about equality and empowerment.

Those three titular figures are Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe). Those women are all brilliant in their own field even beyond; but their only problem is more complex than their minds; because they are women and people of colors. Continue reading “Hidden Figures (2017) – Review”

Hell or High Water (2016) – Review

Review:  When their mother died, two brothers – a divorcee Toby (Chris Pine) and an ex-con Tanner (Ben Foster) – get involved in a series of bank-robbing quests, specifically against Texas Midlands Bank – the bank which threats to foreclosure the family’s ranch. Toby, the younger one, is a more motivated mastermind; meanwhile, Tanner, the self-claimed Comanche, is a man with violent tendency. What the brothers bring in Hell or High Water is poetic justice.

To minimize risks, the brothers only rob small banks and small bills to get laundered; although Tanner’s explosive behavior always gets his brother frustrated. However, bank robberies have never been a small-time crime not to attract attention. Two Texas Rangers are assigned for the case – Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) and Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), an almost retired powerhouse. If anyone should be in the brothers’ way, the dodgy ol’ man is the perfect show-stopper. Continue reading “Hell or High Water (2016) – Review”

Fences (2016) – Review

Review: Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) walks home from work with his comrade, Bono (Stephen Henderson), talking about work and life as black men in the 1950s’ Pittsburgh, before reaching Troy’s home, in which Rose (Viola Davis), Troy’s wife, has waited. From the blocking, the set arrangement, and the characters’ gesture, we already know that Fences is adapted from a play; it is staged like a play, but it ventures further into masterclass, cinematic performance.

Troy, a hardened man, was once a talented baseball player, who never made to professional careers due to an issue which he addressed as racial segregation. He’s got into an unfortunate event when he’s young, but he’s overcome it. Since then, Troy becomes bitter and skeptical; he’s been building fences—literally and figuratively. Continue reading “Fences (2016) – Review”