A ‘coming of age’ movie can often be cliched. Person goes through hard times, faces their demons head on and then triumphs. Countless films have used that template to spin a sugar-coated yarn for the masses. Winner of the 2017 Best Picture Oscar, ‘Moonlight’ adheres to some of that formula. Making it rise above others is the bravery in telling its gritty story, pulling no punches in crafting compelling viewing.

Chiron Harris (Alex Hibbert) is a young boy living with his drug addicted mother Paula (Naomi Harris). Residing in Miami, Chiron finds a strange father figure in local drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali). Pushing through a seemingly hopeless existence, Chiron’s best friend Kevin (Jaden Piner) also helps in making Chiron’s life bearable. Over the decades the unexpected becomes the norm as their lives take dramatic turns.

Barry Jenkins directs ‘Moonlight’ with assurance. Exploring masculinity, sexuality and desire within the urban black community showing how some try to conform to expectations in order to survive a certain environment. From an early age Chiron learns the value of keeping his true persona to himself in order to avoid deadly confrontation. Only with a few does he reveal his inner thoughts with his physical presence masking his emotions.

There are many more themes in ‘Moonlight’ - a mark of a well written script. The performances are high quality as several actors play the lead characters through the years. The cinematography highlights their situations with ease with silent movement just as powerful as dialogue. ‘Moonlight’ is strangely romantic in some ways with emotional connections more important than physical ones.

It’s easy seeing why ‘Moonlight’ won multiple awards as it provides a consistently powerful experience. The themes are ones most can relate to as the gripping narrative commands attention until the end. ‘Moonlight’ is a solid ‘coming of age’ story where the awards it has received make it a rare example of a film worth the awards accolades.

Rating out of 10: 9


The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

One word sums up director Terry Gilliam – resilience. Nowhere is that clearly seen than his latest movie ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’. After an earlier abandoned version in 2000 which featured Johnny Depp, Gilliam has spent the last twenty years trying to restart his dream project. At last after countless false starts, he achieved making it while overcoming enormous obstacles. Whether the film is great or not is immaterial, getting it done gives it kudos already and is a testament to Gilliam’s enduring creative passion.

Toby (Adam Driver) is a jaded film-maker drawn to the eccentric whims of Spanish shoemaker Javier (Jonathan Pryce). Believing himself to be the fictional character of Don Quixote, Javier takes Toby on a time-jumping journey. Taken back to a village where he previously filmed one of his earlier movies, Toby is forced to face his past. Pulled between madness and desire, both men must come to terms with their actions in order to have a future.

As with most Terry Gilliam films, ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ is unique. His movies can be an acquired taste with his vision often running away from him. ‘Quixote’ is a typical example of a Gilliam film quickly turning into a mess. That isn’t to say the performances are terrible or the production doesn’t have Gilliam’s usual directorial flourishes, it’s that the script loses its way fast with the attention span given a tough work-out.

‘Quixote’ is similar to Gilliam’s previous film ’12 Monkeys’ with its exploration of madness. Javier’s fractured mind slowly drags Toby’s down with it with fantasy and reality constantly blurred. It’s an intriguing theme constantly getting bogged down in irrelevant incident. The location shooting and production design generally paper over these narrative cracks with Driver and Pryce having a great time with their fascinating characters.

Despite the never-ending trauma Gilliam went through to make ‘Quixote’, what transpires is an often confusing muddle. It all looks amazing with the trademark Gilliam quirks intact. As a viewing experience it’s a bit of a chore but all power to Gilliam for refusing to surrender in the face of an adversity that would make Don Quixote himself proud.

Rating out of 10: 6