Don Shanahan’s reviews for “Moonlight,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Loving,” and “Arrival” are up on Every Movie Has a Lesson



To reveal more of the emotional and scientific obstacle course would take away from the engrossing experience to be had by “Arrival.”  This is the anti-”Independence Day,” so don’t expect a populist romp.  Instead, open your mind to a stimulating and provocative mindbender that may require more than one viewing to grasp and appreciate.  The trippy events unfolding out of the screenplay tangle the puppeteer’s strings and play with narrative and filmmaking forces few are daring enough, and smart enough, to wield.


It should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the career path of Mel Gibson, either in front or behind the camera, that “Hacksaw Ridge” rings up the descriptor of “excessive” more than any film to date this year.  “Hacksaw Ridge” is a war film of excessive violence operatically woven into a biopic screen story of excessive hero worship based on a true story of World War II Congressional Medal of Honor winner Desmond Doss.  Both excesses are laid on very thick.  Only half of one of them are worth it.


With a minimalist style and unadorned simplicity to reflect on racial intolerance, Jeff Nichols crafts “Loving” as a reminiscence of history without the histrionics.  Devoid of soapboxes, speechifying, and manufactured swells of forced emotion seen in far too many historical dramas, “Loving” cuts a different cloth, trading in Hollywood glamor for blue collar truthfulness.  Nichols brilliantly lets the honesty and grace of Richard and Mildred Loving stand on their own without an unnecessary pedestal.  Cite this film as proof that “tell it like it is” does not require bombastic noise and volume.


I dare you to look into the painful eyes of the three ages of Chiron and their matching performers and not have your soul triple in weight.  The arc in “Moonlight” from the innocence of the little boy to the uncomfortable vulnerability hiding underneath the muscles and gold fronts of the hardened resulting adult is arduously moving on multiple levels.  Observing his difficulties forces you to absorb the conflict and inescapable trepidation that surrounds the shared character.  Pressing his heart to your own makes for one of the most moving and rewarding film experiences this year.


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