*Obvious Spoiler Alert!*
The good things (what I liked)
- Personally, what I found most original of the movie was the use of names and nicknames. They are a symbol carried throughout the movie that represent the struggle in the characters of deciding who they are, and it’s a deeply human struggle. Who are we? Who do they think we are? Are we letting them define us?
- I enjoyed the division of the movie in (literally) three acts, or three parts.
- The homosexual tone in the movie was also something I didn’t expect (I hadn’t watched the trailer), and I thought it was original for a sort of ghetto black character to also be gay.
- The first two acts were interesting, and Chiron was a compelling and promising main character.
- The directing is decent, although nothing too great. What’s impressive is the budget of the movie (only $5 million dollars).
The bad things (what I didn’t like)
- Now, I don’t want to be mean, but I expected more from the movie. The first bad thing in the movie would be the palpable inexperience of director/writer Barry Jenkins, especially as a writer (for his directing was actually good). This is in no way his fault, for he will probably get better with time, but his writing does need work.
- The script is bad, not terrible, just bad. It had a lot of problems.
- First, dialogues. I think there was a dialogue that actually went something like this: “you know the ocean, now I’m going to show you fire.” And the movie is plagued with bad, pseudo-profound lines and conversations. Rarely did a dialogue shock me here. It reminded me a lot of the movie “The Neon Demon”, where dialogues are simply horrendous.
- Second, still regarding dialogues, but more in terms of how characters spoke, rather than what they spoke, I found the ghetto dialect to be cliché and forced. I felt as if the writer thought just by writing “ain’t” instead of “isn’t” and “is” instead of “are” he was going to sound realistic, but it sounded plain and stiff.
- Third, the plot was too over the place. There was little continuity between plot line and plot line to feel like an actual Aristotelian plot style (explained in the image below), to mean, there were so many small stories, there wasn’t really just one climax or one introduction, however it was too overly dramatic to be Slice of Life, and too large in plot-time and short in screen time to feel like an actual coming-of-age tale (every time there was a time jump, I felt there were lots of things missing in-between).
- Another bad thing was that the portrayal of the ghetto is melodramatic, two-dimensional and stereotypical. All you can expect from a story like this was here. An absentee parent? Check. A drug addict, alcoholic and/or neglectful parent? Check. A run-in with the law? Check. A drug dealer? Check. An injustice? Check. The male-ghetto version of the girl-taking-off-her-glasses-and-having-a-make-over-and-suddenly-being-pretty scene? Check. That is why I found the gay thing so original and refreshing. Because you don’t normally see that type of storyline in these movies.
- The movie tried to cover so many things, I think it lost itself halfway there. We have the main character, and then we see all his problems: being gay, his neglectful mother, him being bullied, his absentee father, his lack of protection either with the law, at school and at home, his relationship with the drug dealer and his wife, etc. During the first act, the centre is in Juan, this new “father figure”; in the second act, the centre is in the mother’s addiction, the bullying and the secret, gay love affair; and by the third act, there are so many plot lines opened, there is no actual emotional centre (is it so we can see how his relationship with Juan affected him? Or how his mother affected him? Or how the bullies affected him? Or how Kevin affected him?). There are so many things in this movie, and so many emotional questions in the character, it feels too broad and overwhelming for just two hours.
- Probably because of that, the third act was simply horrible. In a cliché and yet unbelievable turn of events (how can a cliché not work? I’m not really sure yet), Chiron is now a drug dealer with the typical (and expected) hard exterior, wanting to make you believe he’s not the shy, emotional kid anymore. But then, rather quickly we find that this is not true (not that we really believed this cliché act anyway). If Jenkins wanted to make him cold for a while, he should’ve at least made it last more than five minutes. This new “hard armor” is quickly destroyed by a simple call by Kevin (an exquisite scene, with surprisingly good dialogues, may I add), and further destroyed then by a climatic visit to his mother, and finally the long-awaited unsurprising, forced, long and overly-emotional set of scenes with his long-lost love from High School (who’s now married and has kid), Kevin.
- This leads me to the unbelievability of this relationship. Kevin, this boy, was introduced too quickly by the end of the first act, and then is reintroduced in an awkward scene at the start of the second act (almost just so that we know he’s still there), then they meet randomly on a beach, smoke, kiss and well, I’ll leave some stuff to the imagination, and then he beats the hell out of Chiron (so the bullies don’t know he’s actually in love with him). Then comes the third act, many years later. From the quickness and superficiality of their relationship in the second act, I couldn’t believe they would actually still be in love with each other. It’s unrealistic. People move on. I sort of believed Chiron might still be affected by this other man, because of his shy and introverted nature (which apparently he hadn’t overcome it as he’d thought). But the fact that both of them are still in love, is just too sentimentalist from the writer’s part.
- Finally, Chiron’s relationship with Juan and Teresa, although promising, ended up being flat, and totally forgotten (thus useless) by the end of the film.
Who would I (or wouldn’t I) recommend it to
- Even though this movie didn’t mesmerize me, and even though I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to, I would still recommend it to some people, after warning them I didn’t find it as good as everyone else apparently did.
- I would recommend it to activists (or anyone with activist ideals), people who like low-budget movies that surpassed expectations, people who like good movies, people who like the representation of minorities in movies, and people who like the games with colors and lights in movies (cinematographically speaking).
- I would not recommend this to people who like movies more for writing than for direction, people who don’t like movies about controversial topics, and people who prefer simple movies like chick flicks and superhero movies.
Best scene or dialogue (if there was any that stood out)
The last scene with Chiron and his mother was honest, simple and heartbreaking. Probably the best and most effective scene in the movie. I could imagine a real mother telling this to a son.
Also, the scene at the beginning when Chiron is not speaking was good.
Who stole the show?
Naomie Harris, and not because she was great the whole time, but for that last scene. That scene could get her the Oscar much like Patricia Arquette’s last scene in Boyhood gave her an Oscar (although Arquette’s performance throughout the film was more stable and better than Harris’). Too bad she is going against powerhouses who’ve had an Oscar coming for longer like Viola Davis, Michelle Williams, Felicity Jones, and even Greta Gerwig.
Do I predict this movie will have any actual nominations?
Yes, and what’s more, I believe it has a chance of winning some. Not so much because I believe it deserves them, but because of last year’s Oscars-so-white controversy. This movie is perfect to balance this out, with an all-black cast. However, there is also Fences to cover the spot that could’ve been covered by “Straight Outta Compton” or “Tangerine” last year.
The concept and idea of the movie was deeper than the actual execution. There is promise here, but overall, not so much art as plain sentimentality.