Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, is the story of an African American man named Chiron told in three parts. The three sections are called Little, Chiron and Black. These labels refer to the name that Chiron is known by during the section. Moonlight is a incredible feat of storytelling and structure. Its a rare film that presents many questions without ever attempting to answer those questions in a simplistic way. Moonlight uses a specific story to explore universal themes such as identity and how people are formed by experience.
The first section of Moonlight introduces the character of Chiron as a young child living in Miami. When Chiron is chased by bullies, he hides in an abandoned building and is found by a drug dealer named Juan who becomes a father figure for Chiron. In this section we see the beginning stages of Chiron’s development as a person. We see a budding relationship with another child named Kevin and abuse by Chiron’s mother. The second section of Moonlight is Chiron’s teenage years. Chiron is constantly harrassed by other kids in school and his mother’s addiction has only gotten worse. Chiron has his first sexual experience with Kevin on a beach but later Kevin is pressured into assaulting Chiron by a bully named Terrel. When Chiron retaliates against his bully, he is arrested.
The third section of Moonlight shows Chiron several years after being arrested. He works as a drug dealer in Atalanta and he goes by the nickname “black”. Chiron visits his mother and forgives her for the roughness of his childhood. Chiron also visits Kevin who now works at a a restaurant in Miami. Chrion reveals that Kevin is the only man to ever touch him which prompts another sexual encounter between the two men. The film ends with an image of young Chiron looking back towards the camera on the beach.
The story of Moonlight could easily occur in reality as it is incredibly personal. The film tends to focus on moments that are mundane but these moments are filled with meaning. You could easily watch Moonlight and think that most scenes are pointless but the truth is that every single detail is important. Moonlight is the kind of movie that you can’t help but think about for days after you watch it.
Moonlight is easily one of the most important movies of the year. It’s a film that shows the facts of a human life without making any assumptions or drawing any conclusions about what those facts mean. It teaches you that the world is an unfair place and often people have no control over their futures. Watch Moonlight to become see a compelling story and become a better human being.
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Denis Villeneuve creates films that stay with you long after the credits roll. Now that his fourth major film has hit theaters, I am convinced that Villeneuve is the most significant filmmaker we have today. His film Arrival is a stunning masterpiece of science fiction, one of those rare films that is thought-provoking and a downright pleasure to behold.
Arrival stars Amy Adams as Louise Banks, a linguistics professor tasked with translating the language of aliens who have recently arrived on Earth. Arrival begins with a sequence depicting the life and death of Banks’s daughter who dies at a young age. Banks is invited by an army colonel, played by Forest Whitaker, to Montana where she enters the shell-shaped vessel of the aliens and encounters their language for the first time. The rest of the film follows Banks’s journey to understand the aliens language amidst rising military tensions due to the possibility that the aliens are dangerous. This is about as far as you can go describing the film’s plot without spoiling anything. If you have read this far, be aware that I am going to spoil many parts of the film in the rest of my piece.
I should give props to Ted Chiang because Arrival is based on a short story he wrote. Many elements of Arrival such as the design of the Aliens’ language come from Chiang’s short story. This means that Villeneuve does not deserve all of the credit for Arrival’s awesomeness. Much of the material is shamelessly taken from Chiang’s story but this most likely occurred with Chiang’s permission. Villeneuve does deserve credit for Arrival’s incredible visuals, the casting of Amy Adams and the choice to adapt Chiang’s story in the first place. Arrival is an example of what happens when multiple creative geniuses combine forces on one project.
A major source of mystery in Arrival is the aliens’ reason for being on Earth. This is the main question Banks wants to answer in her meetings with the aliens. When the question is answered, it almost happened too quickly to comprehend. The aliens purpose is to give the gift of their language to humanity because learning the language enables the user to see the past and future. The aliens claim that they will need humanity’s help in the future so that is why they are giving humanity their language. This plot point is unfortunately not fleshed out enough in Arrival. There is no discussion of what this means for anyone other than Louise Banks. I wish that the movie had at least made an attempt to explore the larger implications of a language that enables the user to see the future.
Arrival is a much more personal movie than it appears. While the stakes are large, the movie ignores those stakes in favor of the smaller stakes related to Dr. Banks. Ultimately its unclear why the movie chose to focus so heavily on her story when greater possibilities were available. Despite this problem Arrival is so far my favorite movie of 2016. The film achieved what few other could. It kept me transfixed for the entire time I was in the theater. At this point it is safe to say that this is Villeneuve’s specialty. His ability as a filmmaker is unparalleled in today’s cinema landscape.