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Film Review: Border

“If You’re Different Than Others It Means You Are Better Than Them…”

Undoubtedly taking the award for one of the strangest foreign language films I have seen in a good while, Iranian-Swedish filmmaker, Ali Abbasi, writes and directs his second big screen feature, Border, a strange blend of mystery, horror and fantastical mythos based on a short story from Let the Right One In writer, John Ajvide Lindqvist, from his collection of short stories, Let the Old Dreams Die, published in 2011. Featuring Swedish actress, Eva Melander, in the leading role, Abbasi’s movie sees Melander as Tina, a customs officer whose facial and genetic deformities allow her to have a heightened sense of smell regarding guilty parties who venture into the country. Spending her spare time isolated in the middle of the woods alongside her dog obsessed on-off lover, Tina soon becomes heavily embroiled in the discovery of a child pornography ring on behalf of the local police force and simultaneously fascinated with the arrival of Eero Milonoff’s similarly disfigured, Vore, a insect loving figure of ambiguity who soon sees himself become a close companion to that of Tina who seeks to understand her true identity and the reason behind her natural yet horrifying deformities.

When looking back and admiring the horrific beauty of Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of Let the Right One In, it’s easy to fall into the trap of heading in to Border believing that the movie may be on similar narrative ground, and whilst Abbasi’s movie does indeed flirt with ideas of folklore and particularly ambiguous mystical elements which are shared with Alfredson’s best movie to date, it’s fair to say that Border is a completely different beast entirely as it twists and turns its way through a rafter of genres resulting in a very rare case of being particularly hard to sell or even describe without giving away too many spoilers. What can be said however is for all the film’s positives, including a superb central performance from Milonoff, beautiful cinematography from Nadim Carlsen and particular set pieces which leave you absolutely jaw-dropped, Border is ultimately too bizarre to be worthy of a repeat viewing, and thanks to a strange discomforting sensation which ran through the entire film’s runtime, is a film which seems to fall into a category shared with Funny Games by being I film I truly admire but would be undeniably torturous to actually sit through again. Do I recommend it? Yes. Is it great? Yes. But boy, is it truly surreal.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: The Aftermath

“There May Not Be An Outward Show Of Hatred, But It’s There Below The Surface…”

Returning to the cinematic good books after her superb and woefully unappreciated performance in Colette earlier this year, Keira Knightley leaps onto the big screen once again in The Aftermath, a wartime romantic drama which suffers from the strange cinematic disease of having a trailer which not only is much shorter and sweeter than the final body of work, but is entirely much more engaging and interesting. Directed by James Kent and based on Rhidian Brook’s 2013 novel of the same name, Knightley’s latest sees her take the lead role of Rachael Morgan, a wartime wife who is forced to move to the remains of a now defeated 1946 Hamburg, Germany in order to finally reconvene with her husband, Jason Clarke’s (First Man) Colonel Lewis Morgan, after years of separation due to the strenuous wartime effort. After arriving in the wintery and heavily damaged landscapes of the previously Nazi infested enemy territory, Rachael and her husband are quickly moved into the grand and overly modern residence of Alexander Skarsgård’s (Big Little Lies) Stefan Lubert, a grieving German architect, resulting in a relationship which begins resentful but soon turns into a spiral of romance and passion.

With acting pedigree this superb and a tantalising trailer which I can admit to it adequately catching my eye, the truth of the matter is that The Aftermath should undoubtedly be a much better and more interesting piece than it actually is. With a pace which would damage the reputation of a snail if comparisons were made, Kent’s movie wanders aimlessly through non-existent levels of drama as it attempts to paint a picture of post-war trauma and resentment between the tea-drinking Brits and the Germans, with the central relationship between Lubert and Morgan sort of acting as a lightweight personification as they soon fall in love behind the back of the war obsessed Colonel Morgan. With Knightley doing the best with what she is given from the script, her performance by no means matches the bipolar nature of her strangely annoying character, one who lacks any semblance of charm or likability and one who also contradicts every action and feeling every five seconds to an extent it would have probably been easier if she hadn’t made it through the war in the first place. With a couple of half decent set pieces. including a rather well played piano section, and a superb supporting performance from Skarsgård, The Aftermath is no means terrible, it just doesn’t seem to have a pulse, and for a movie which verges on the two hour mark, Kent’s movie ultimately is blandness personified. Shame

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: On the Basis of Sex

“The Law Says Women Stay Home, Men Go To Work, But All People Must Be Treated Equally…”

Based on the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Brooklyn born and highly inspirational lawyer who during the late twentieth century spent a considerable amount of her career advocating the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality, On the Basis of Sex sees the return of Mimi Leder (The Peacemaker, Deep Impact) to the big screen after her success on television through the likes of The Leftovers. Featuring a screenplay from screenwriting debutante, Daniel Stiepleman, Leder’s movie sees Felicity Jones (Rogue One) take the leading role as the highly intellectual, if slightly sanctimonious Ginsburg, as we see her venture through the masculine dominated society of the late 1950’s and well into the radically different and more open-minded 1970’s, all the time supported by her loving husband, Martin Ginsburg, as played by the safe pair of cinematic hands which is Armie Hammer (Sorry to Bother You). With an abundance of important statements at the heart of the drama, Leder’s latest is an enjoyable and interesting gentle breeze through the politics of the era in which the narrative is set, and whilst On the Basis of Sex does indeed benefit from a excellent central performance, the substance and depth you would expect from a film tackling so many issues is inherently lacking, resulting in a popcorn piece which although is enjoyable enough, fails to hit as hard as the central character’s effect on the world today.

Beginning with an almost The Social Network sensibility as we witness Jones’ Ginsburg become enrolled in the male dominated halls of the Harvard Law School, we immediately cotton on to her stubbornness to conform to the sexist mannerisms of the school’s hierarchy, all the while attempting to balance her education with her home life as the stresses of a newborn baby and her husband’s recent cancer diagnosis threaten to derail her completely. With the opening act of the film managing to develop Ginsburg with a likeable degree of depth, the narrative then steams ahead to the 1970’s as we now see a fully rounded family unit featuring the added inclusion of the outspoken, idealist figure of Cailee Spaeny (Bad Times at the El Royale) as Jane Ginsburg, who comes across as the ideal inspiration to her mother to finally battle against a fundamental sexist brand of political ideals. With the first ninety minutes of the movie essentially semi-effective characterisation with a side plate of knowing build-up to the final act, the concluding thirty minute court drama set pieces is actually rather well handled, even with a degree of dramatic licensing which makes Jones’ standout acting moment more pantomime than To Kill a Mockingbird, a story of which is crucially mentioned at one point in the drama. As a whole therefore, On the Basis of Sex is too low-key and safely played to be classed as a true representation to match the importance of its’ central figure, but with committed central performances and a likeable central feel to it, Leder’s return to the big screen is more than satisfactory.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: If Beale Street Could Talk

“Love Brought You Here. If You Trusted Love This Far, Trust It All The Way…”

With Moonlight undoubtedly one of the most impressive standalone movies, let alone directorial debuts, in recent memory, the Academy Award winning, Barry Jenkins, returns for his second outing in the form of If Beale Street Could Talk, a cinematic adaptation of the novel of the same name by American writer, James Baldwin, which sees the American fuse his stylish directorial and film-making style amidst a screenplay which follows the loving, complicated and wildly rocky relationship between KiKi Layne’s Tish and Stephan James’ (Selma) Fonny. With Moonlight understandably, and somewhat infamously, taking home the biggest award at its’ respective Oscar’s ceremony back in 2017, even when “first-time” winner La La Land was my own personal choice for the nod, the success of one of the most independant and little seen Best Picture winners rightly placed Jenkins at the forefront of critics’ minds who were dying to see whether his ability in the world of cinema just happened to be a one-time fluke. Therefore, whilst there is no denying that at the heart of Beale Street is a clear directorial focus and cinematic design, with it seeming comfortable and relatively safe to say that Jenkins has already managed to place himself into the mind of an auteur, the American’s difficult second album not only fails to live up to the high expectations, but somehow also manages to be a film which shockingly forgets the fundamental rule of cinema 101; telling a good story.

With a central narrative which twists and turns its way throughout a strange decision which sees Jenkins attempt to tell the story in a non-linear fashion, the crux of the drama focuses on Tish and Fonny’s attempts at not only dealing with the unexpected arrival of a child, but the latter’s sudden and wrongful arrest after he is remanded in prison for the supposed rape of a downtown female. Whilst I can admit to not exactly immediately sympathising with character’s from a completely background to my own, the hard truth is that Moonlight also featured characters who shared very little life experiences with myself, yet due to the superb acting and script, I was still able to feel every emotion and ride along with the drama until the very end. In the case of Beale Street, the fact that I had absolutely zero investment in the central relationship is undeniably a key factor in the cold, almost empty emotional resonance the film evokes, with neither Tish nor Fonny managing to be as memorable as either Juan or Chiron from Moonlight, and therefore resulting in a dramatic experience which just feels rather underwhelming and stale. Whilst comparisons to Moonlight should only be made in passing, Beale Street does benefit from Jenkins’ now trademark style, with floating, wide-angle camera shots and hazy, jazz infused cinematography really quite superb, but with too many pointless uses of the format, including a quite baffling one minute plus shot of a clay pot in which nothing happens, Beale Street ultimately fails to build on the excellence of Moonlight and come the end of it, actually became quite irritating to watch as it failed to justify a staggeringly ill-judged two hour runtime. Just for the record, at least Regina King was good.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Instant Family

“People Who Take In Foster Kids Are Really Special. The Kind Of People Who Volunteer When It’s Not Even A Holiday…”

When it comes to the chiseled figure of Marky Mark Wahlberg within a cinematic capacity, the American seems to have made peace with a strange trajectory which sees him on the one hand perform brilliantly on a dramatic level, with the likes of The Departed, Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day some of the many standouts from his more serious body of work, and then choose to completely sink himself into the world of American comedies, which for the majority of the time, absolutely suck. Reuniting with Daddy’s Home director, Sean Anders, for Instant Family thereforeyou can understand my predisposed prejudice at a movie which judging by the rather soppy and cringe-laden trailers, would be yet another painstakingly awful addition to Mr. Wahlberg’s bipolar back catalogue. However, much like seeing England win at a major tournament or finding a twenty pound note floating upon the pavement, miracles do indeed happen, and whilst I ventured into Instant Family with a frightful expression and a warm cup of coffee in order to keep myself awake, the latest collaboration between Wahlberg and Anders is surprisingly a well made, touching, and most importantly, a genuinely hilarious family drama, one which balances saccharin sweetness with poignant notions of contemporary societal issues amidst a screenplay which does a pretty good job of getting the tone just right for an idea which had all the tell-tell signs for going drastically wrong.

Beginning by introducing the immediately good natured and optimistic pairing of Wahlberg’s Pete and Rose Byrne’s (Insidious) Ellie, the film sees the married couple attempt to bring youthful joy into their lives through the adoption programme, much to the dissatisfaction of both their close friends and family, and after failing to successfully adhere to their wishes of believing that the younger the child is, the better, they soon agree to care for Isabela Moner’s (Sicario 2: Soldado) fifteen year old Lizzy and her two younger, and rather strenuous, siblings. Cue dinner time disasters, countless lengths of sleep cut short and the ultimate fear of sassy teenage angst, Instant Family does indeed take a slight while to get going as it puts all the pieces in place before the adoption takes place, but once the family unit come together, their home life soon becomes akin to a ketchup covered war zone as Ellie and Pete soon believe such a decision may be slightly out of their inexperienced depth. With the screenplay from Anders and John Morris managing to blend rib-tickling comedic set pieces with elements of humane, emotional drama, the story succeeds in making you care for each and every character as we observe the connections and relationships that are built, and with dedicated performances, particularly from Moner who follows on from her scene-stealing role in Sicario 2: Soldado with an equally impressive portrayal of a complex character, Instant Family is an utter delight which although nearly derails everything thanks to an awfully cheesy final act, gets away with it completely and lets you leave with a good old fashioned grin glanced across your chops.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: Burning

“There Is No Right Or Wrong. Just The Morals Of Nature…”

Presenting itself as arguably one of the more difficult movies to seek out throughout the year thus far due to a disgracefully minimal big screen release, Burning, the latest from acclaimed South Korean director, Lee Chang-dong, is undoubtedly the type of movie worth travelling that extra few miles for in order to behold and breathe in. Based on the story, “Barn Burning” published in 1992 by Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, Chang-dong’s movie is a tense, taut and superbly crafted psychological thriller which sees Yoo Ah-in as Lee Jong-su, a rather reserved and emotionally conflicted package courier who amidst dealing with his father’s newly found criminal exploits, begins to form a relationship with Jeon Jong-seo’s Shin Hae-mi, a former childhood neighbour and school acquaintance who on first glance, Lee fails to recognise due to Hae-mi’s admittance at undergoing plastic surgery in order to appear more attractive to the male gaze. As the relationship between the two begins to blossom, to the extent that Lee is left with the responsibility of caring for Hae-mi’s rather unsociable feline friend as she disappears on a trip to Africa, her return from her spiritual adventure sees her arrive back with Steven Yeun’s (The Walking Dead) Ben, a handsome, rich figure of ambiguity who soon begins to drive a creep-sized wedge between Hae-mi and Lee’s relationship, much to the jealous and judgemental eye of the former who begins to suspect that Ben’s secretive demeanour is much more dangerous than his charming sensibility makes out.

Whilst the clearest narrative connections at the heart of Burning immediately point to the works of Hitchcock, with the notion of the uncertain outsider within cinema always harking back to the likes of A Shadow of a Doubt, the near two and a half hour runtime clearly emphasises Chang-dong’s philosophy that amidst the central story, the tone and feel of the movie is as equally important, if not more so. With an abundance of interesting character development which manages to clearly identify each of the very different triage of leading characters, the atmosphere which idles in the background of the movie as the drama develops oodles with a subversive sense of strangeness, with you never really sure whether certain behavioural oddities or baffling character interactions are meant to be taken literally, as a deft aside or part of a wider mystery. With a very minimal reliance on musical accompaniments and the strange, ever-shifting colours of Hong Kyung-pyo’s cinematography in which the movie seems to traverse through from the urban brightness of daytime South Korea to the Nordic Noir feel of night, Burning’s clearest elemental ideas regarding the aspect of loneliness, longing and jealousy are all actively heightened with an alarming slow-burn nature, resulting in a final act which seems to take pleasure in failing to offer the audience a crowd-pleasingly satisfying, well rounded resolution, instead actively encouraging audiences to make up their own minds just like a huge percentage of the the most impactful and memorable chillers always manage to do. Add into the mix a hallucinatory dance sequence which clearly evoked the works of David Lynch and an underlying comment on the societal state of North Korea, Burning is an endlessly compelling thriller with style to burn and still has me dissecting certain elements in order to figure out exactly what it all meant. Crucial viewing.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

“You Can Be An Asshole If You’re Famous. You Can’t Be Unknown And Be Such A Bitch, Lee…”

With Melissa McCarthy always succeeding in managing to send a particularly large and unwelcome chill down the length of my back each and every time I see her name plastered across a new cinematic release, the early murmurings of a movie which not only featured McCarthy taking on something different to her normal adolescent, awfully timed comedic nightmares, but one in which the American was actually rather splendid too, immediately raised my film reviewing eyebrows in the hope of something majestic, even if a slight whiff of trepidation remained due to the almost painful recollection of her involvement in 2018’s worst film by quite a considerable distance, The Happytime Murders. Based on the controversial figure of American author, Lee Israel, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the latest from U.S based filmmaker, Marielle Heller, whose best known work includes Transparent and The Diary of a Teenage Girl, does indeed take full advantage of the best on-screen features which McCarthy has to offer, with Heller’s movie supplying the actress with a role in which she undoubtedly sinks her teeth into, even within the confines of a central narrative which does annoyingly fail to ever secure adequate lift off, but with a clear sense of acting dedication and a faintly interesting premise, McCarthy’s latest is indeed a step in the right direction, albeit one which doesn’t exactly hold a torch to the rather bemusing critical acclaim which has been showered upon it.

Highlighting from the outset the rather depressive, downbeat sensibility of McCarthy’s Israel, the movie opens after her brief success in the world of writing due to her well received biography of Estée Lauder and her attempts to reignite such attention by conducting research for a novel based around the life of Fanny Brice. Living in a dingy, unkempt one bedroom apartment with only her unwell feline friend to keep her company, Israel suddenly falls upon a letter bearing the writing of Brice herself, only to discover that the world of fraudulently constructed letters from the pen name of dead famous authors actually pays significantly well, a notion seen as the ultimate cure for her less than graceful financial and personal situation. Aided by the HIV ridden, crafty, streetwise hand of local drug dealer, Jack Hock, played in outrageously entertaining form by the now Oscar nominated, Richard E. Grant (Logan) the pair soon begin a successful partnership within the fraud business as they make their way around the local area in order to pawn off as many convincing letters as humanly possible. With a familiar rise and fall narrative regarding the discovery and punishment of criminal undertakings, the most effective element of Heller’s movie is undoubtedly the central relationship between Hock and Israel, with both parties managing to balance each other out in the category of total societal retrogrades, whilst the swift back and forth quip-laden interchanges are both smart and excellently directed. However, with Grant bringing charm to burn, the focus on McCarthy ultimately results in no sympathetic link whatsoever, resulting in actions and consequences which are observed but never really fully engaged upon, and with strange narrative asides which go absolutely nowhere come the credits screen, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is the type of independant release which could have been better served with both a better editor and an extra slice of flash to at least living things up, resulting in Heller’s movie falling into the category of interesting, but not exactly memorable.

Overall Score: 6/10 

Film Review: Green Book

“You Never Win With Violence. You Only Win When You Maintain Your Dignity…”

Arriving in the United Kingdom just in time for the Academy Awards later in the month, the multi nominated drama, Green Book, comes forth with an abundance of critical pleasantries and expectation that amongst the likes of A Star is Born and Roma, the small, independent latest from the director of Shallow Hal and erm, Dumb and Dumber To may pip such works of excellence to the post of walking away with Best Picture. Based on the true life relationship between African-American jazz pianist, Don Shirley, and the Italian-American streetwise bouncer, Tony Vallelonga, Green Book is a quaint, engaging and highly entertaining dramatic crowd-pleaser which floats gently across the line between saccharin and sweet as it blends together two opposing figures of 1960’s America with enough charm and interesting underlying subplots to gloss over a story which many audiences have already seen before. With many declaring Green Book as essentially a contemporary adaptation of Driving Miss Daisy, albeit with a particular twist regarding the ethnicity of both driver and passenger, Peter Farrelly’s latest shines brightest when left in the company of the film’s leading stars, with both Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) both providing stand out performances worthy of their recognition from this year’s Oscars, and whilst Green Book as a whole fails to match the excellence of its’ brothers in the field of Best Picture, the particular parts which do happen to shine brightest are indeed worthy of taking the time to seek out and admire.

With the movie opening with Mortensen’s Vallelonga, the work dependant, cocky hustler burdened with the apt nickname of “Tony Lip” due to his almost joyous penchant for saying things as he sees them, the screenplay concocted from a combination of Farrelly, Brian Currie and Tony’s son, Nick Vallelonga, allows the first act of the movie to swiftly play out with a fun sense of purpose as we bear witness to Tony’s alarming appetite for food, his ever-expanding family and his reluctant on-off relationship with the local crime gangs. Seeking gainful employment after being predisposed from his work as a bouncer, Tony falls upon the graces of Ali’s Don Shirley, a majestically cultured and wonderfully talented pianist who enlists the services of Tony as he makes his way into the deep South in order to fulfill his promise of a musical tour. As the screenplay moves into an almost road movie-esque sensibility, it is here where the comedic element of Farrelly really shines, with gorgeous interplay between both Tony and Shirley resulting in some genuinely memorable and laugh-out loud set pieces as we gradually see the differences between both both come together in a clear synchronisation of loving friendship. Whilst the clear racial undertones of the piece begin interesting and poignant, the repetitive nature of such a notion does become slightly tiresome come the end, with Green Book undoubtedly the type of movie where the nuanced approach fits the mood of the piece better than the show-stopping, award seeking monologues which the trailers are filled with, but with two really superb central performances from reliable and watchable actors with a clear admiration for the script, Green Book is a really heartwarming slice of drama, just served with extra cheese.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: Destroyer

“You Chose To Play Cops And Robbers. And You Lost…”

Ending the year as Queen of Atlantis in Aquaman, the ever reliable Nicole Kidman begins 2019 with a completely different and polar opposite performance as the Aussie takes the lead role in Destroyer, the latest feature from American filmmaker, Karyn Kusama, whose previous credits include the recent cult favourite, Jennifer’s Body, and the all-female directed anthology horror movie, XX. Part noir crime thriller, part sanctimonious art-house reject, Kusama’s latest is a particularly odd beast, a grungy, overly depressing character study which sees Kidman as LAPD detective, Erin Bell, a worn out, angst ridden alcoholic who stumbles across the death of an unidentified criminal and soon becomes entangled in a dark underground plot which sees the resurfacing of Toby Kebbell’s (Dead Man’s Shoes) murderous gang leader whom Bell previously infiltrated undercover many years previous. With many critics focusing on the transformation of Kidman in the lead role as the standout highlight of the piece, the fact that five minutes in I began to laugh at the awfulness of the Australian’s facial stiffness probably was a strange sign of things to come, and whilst Kusama’s latest features some bold attempts at greatness, Destroyer is ultimately a downbeat, overly plodding and uninspiring drama which dreams big but can only be classed as a unforgettable failure.

Utilising two different time frames to enhance and develop the background behind Kidman’s character, the contemporary setting sees her manage to strike a odd balance between an extra off The Walking Dead and Johnny Depp’s performance as James Bulger in Black Mass, with a gallon of rough edge makeup, a seemingly awful visit to some Sweeney Todd-esque barber and a leather jacket the standout elements of a performance which I’m sorry to report, just seems so superficial and phoney, the story just becomes irrelevant everytime Kidman appears on screen due to her image just coming off as too damn distracting. Whilst the first half of the narrative ultimately becomes too irritating to truly be engaged with, the second time zone in which we see a younger and less painted Kidman infiltrate Kebbell’s stone free gang of dangerous misfits is undoubtedly the more interesting of the two, particularly with the added charisman of Sebastian Stan (Avengers: Infinity War) as her partner in both undercover and romantic sense, who out of everyone in the entire film, was the most pleasing and interesting to be around and arguably could have been the focus of the movie in the first place. Stan aside, Destroyer also sees one of the most obvious miscasting decisions this year in the form of Kebbell as the mousy haired ring leader, a character as threatening as the unicorn from Despicable Me, whilst attempts at building wavering familial relations with a strange subplot involving Bell’s daughter and her asshole boyfriend fails to spark at all, culminating in a concluding monologue about parental responsibility and mountain climbing which nearly sent me straight to sleep. Ending with a Shyamalan sized twist which still has me wondering whether it was genius or actually quite ridiculous, Destroyer is one of the most depressing two hours you may spend at the cinema this year but hey, if you fancy being in the company of hateful characters for two hours, Kidman’s latest may be the exact medicine for you.

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: Monsters and Men

“Cities Are Gonna Keep Burning. Kids Are Gonna Keep Getting Shot. And Cops Are Gonna Keep Getting Off…”

With the Academy Award nominations now released into the steely glances of the general public, the success and critical admiration of Spike Lee’s excellent BlackKklansman seems to have resulted in succession of interesting, ideas based political dramas with a key central narrative regarding the impact of race relations across contemporary American society. Joined together at the hip by rising star, John David Washington, Monsters and Men, the big screen debut from American filmmaker, Reinaldo Marcus Green, follows a very familiar path to Lee’s 2018 drama by focusing on a increasingly topical discussion and confronting it upon the big screen. With a core central narrative which immediately brings to mind last year’s The Hate U Give, Green’s movie follows three different perspectives following the shooting of an unarmed black male on the streets of downtown New York. Loosely inspired by the death of Eric Garner back in 2014, a cigarette seller who resisted arrest and subsequently died within a police officer’s chokehold, all of which was filmed by an onlooker on his mobile phone, Monsters and Men is an interesting, very well made and thought-provoking drama with a trio of excellent and thoroughly convincing central performances.

Following a very similar narrative pathway to to Barry Jenkins’ outstanding 2017 drama, Moonlight, Monsters and Men follows three very different male characters who are each bound together by a crippling desire for change in a society which makes such drastic decisions either increasingly difficult or incredibly dangerous. Beginning with Anthony Ramos’ (A Star is Born) street savvy, Manny, the film benefits from taking the time to develop each leading character whilst the background noise of the underlying central message boils from underneath, and with an opening thirty minutes which ends with Manny’s role in the film’s key set piece, the transition from Ramos to Washington (BlackKklansman) is expertly done and exhibits a craft of filmmaking not many big screen debutants would be able to pull off. With the introduction of Washington as Dennis, a observant and dedicated local Police Officer, it is undoubtedly his portion of the film which manages to emit the highest degree of drama, with his conflicted nature as an officer of the law binding him to a make a final decision regarding his position as a black man in a predominantly white geographical area which is both difficult and understandable from the point of view of the audience. With two standout scenes from Washington’s own act including an emotional and iconic basketball scene and a dinner discussion regarding the politics of policing, it does comes as a slight shame that the final act involving Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s (It Comes at Night) Zee is rather quite plodding and at times, particularly dull, but with a dedication to the screenplay from each of the three leading actors and a well handled sense of preachiness which failed to annoy or disturb the drama, Monsters and Men is a ideas ridden cinematic debut from a filmmaker with obvious raw and exciting talent.

Overall Score: 7/10