Live by Night

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA15+Live by Night

Director / Screenwriter / Producer: Ben Affleck

Based on a novel written by: Dennis Lehane

Director of Photography: Robert Richardson

Starring: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, Matthew Maher, Miguel J. Pimentel, Max Casella.

Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) is a man recently home from WWI.  After seeing so much wasted bloodshed, he refuses to believe in a system that applies no value to the people it governs.

The son of Boston’s Deputy Superintendent, Thomas Coughlin (Brendan Gleeson), a good cop and a cop who loves his son, Joe goes about life without regard for the law.  He robs banks and falls in love with a gangster’s Molly, Emma Gould (Sienna Miller).  Joe wants to be free.  And he is free, until the Italian Mafia decide they want the Irishman on their side. 

Live by Night isn’t one of those gangster revenge films full of sociopaths and relentless shoot-outs.  This is a film shown beautifully through the authentic setting of those 1920s streets of Boston and the vast skies reflected in the snake-like curving rivers of Miami. 

It took a while but I was eventually absorbed by this story based on a novel written by Dennis Lehane (winner of the 2013 Edgar Award for Best Novel of the Year).  The screenplay written by Ben Affleck has the benefit of well-thought characters and a ring of truth about the era: Prohibition and the underground rum trade in Tampa, racism, the fight for the American Dream.  But what is The Dream?  Girls, money, power, love?  Freedom?

There was a complexity here.  This is a story about a man who wants to survive.  But not at any price, not while there’s still a piece of heaven here on earth. 

With an adaptation of a novel, it’s not easy to convey all without glossing over moments that would have been given more depth in the text.  Although each character was portrayed so the fierceness, evil and beauty was shown in the dialogue, some extra seconds of those facial expressions would have conveyed more. 

Offsetting the lack of depth was the beautiful camera work by Robert Richardson, giving access to the film through the depiction of setting.

I imagine it must have been difficult for Ben Affleck to act and direct in the same film.  To be the one to portray what you have written, to show the vision of the story must be a hard task.  And it shows.  Ben being the least impressive actor in the film.  I’m not saying his acting was bad, I’m just saying it wasn’t as believable as the performance of say, Sienna Miller or Matthew Maher (as RD Pruitt).  Thankfully, the rest of the cast are phenomenal, given direction by the screenwriter, Ben.  A headful, I know.  And a hint into the space that is Ben Affleck.  What an achievement. 

Overall, Live by Night is one of those quiet movies that creeps up on you, a slow absorption into the point-of-view of Joe that doesn’t smack you in the face because that’s not in his psychological make-up: ‘I don’t want to be a gangster.  I stopped kissing rings a long time ago.’

A sometimes bland film but a cracker of a story.

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GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: M

Directed by: Barry JenkinsMoonlight

Screenplay by: Barry Jenkins

Story by: Tarell Alvin McCraney

Produced by: Alede Romanski, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner

Starring: Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monáe, André Holland and Mahershala Ali.

An emotionally charged, poignant film brought close to the audience through beautiful camerawork and the direction of open and honest performances making the story all the more real.

Moonlight follows the life of Cheron as he grows up in the Projects of Miami.

The story follows as he grows from Little (Alex Hibbert), just a kid already running, to Cheron (Ashton Sanders) in the midst of adolescence, to MoonlightBlack (Trevante Rhodes), the man he is destined to become.  Each step of life is depicted by a different actor, yet the resemblance of the three is astounding.

Moonlight reveals the life of a boy as he struggles to grow through his mother’s drug addiction, loneliness, racism and his sexual identity.  But this isn’t an in-your-face film that confronts and rips your heart out, this is a story shown with genuine artistry through beautiful shots of people and light and an openness where you can see the character up close, like the whisper of a secret.

The soundtrack (composed by: Nicholas Britell) is quiet and used to turn the tide of tone, carefully.  The music making or breaking the mood of a film and the support of the soundtrack here essential as the story is shown through the subtle.

And that’s what makes the film resonate so loudly: the small movements, the way a head turns or the light as those eyes flick.  All those awkward movements felt and shown, known.

We’ve all been there at some point: the fool, the humiliated, the hated.  We’ve all felt the quiet.  Yet the film shows love too, like kids sprinting then laughing because they feel the joy of the blood pumping, like kids do.


The authenticity of the story comes from the script based on a project written by Tarell Alvin McCraney: A Forging of Cinematic Identity of Miami, with director Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy) broadening the script and adapting for screen.

By coincidence both McCraney and Jenkins grew up in the Liberty City housing projects where most of the film is set.  And the experience shows in how and where the film was shot.

This isn’t the Miami you see on TV.  Yet the feeling of Miami is still there in the palm trees, the beach and the sea breeze.

The soundtrack, the setting, the camera work is all used to support the amazing performances of the cast.  As Cheron grows into a man the performances are so open and honest I felt I could see into the soul of the man he becomes.

Moonlight is unique in that it’s both raw and subtle, creating something else, a feeling that stays with you that’s beautiful because it’s laid bare.  What a rarity and an experience you won’t soon forget.

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GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MPassengers

Directed by: Morten Tyldum

Written by: Jon Spaihts

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen; Laurence Fishburne.

A love story set in space.

I saw the spaceship and the fantastic attention to detail (by award winning Guy Hendrix (Inception)) where each part of the ship is designed to take the audience into a place where androids like Arthur (Michael Sheen) tend bar and people are put to sleep for 120 years so they can migrate to a distant planet.

But more than anything, Passengers is a story about journalist Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) and mechanic Jim (Chris Pratt), falling in love.

I’m thankful the two lead characters were well-cast and well-beautiful because Passengers is a cheese-fest.

Sci-fi fans will be disappointed with the focus on a love story and I was disappointed because the story was a simple one.


On his way from immigrating from Earth to Homeland II, Jim is woken up from his hibernation 90 years too early.

The film asks the question, What would you do if you were alone in space for the rest of your life?

When Jim meets Aurora, they fall in love (of course).  Two people stranded together isn’t so bad when they have each other.  Until they realise there’s something critically wrong with the ship.

If bodacious bodies are your thing, Jen and Chris give you an eyeful.  And I
really have to find out who the clothing designer is because the outfits and shoes are to die for.  See here for interview with designer Jamy Temime. Not that the character, Aurora is happy about being on a floating prison where the destination will never be reached because she’ll be dead by then.

But you can see where I’m going with the description: it’s all about the visual aspect.  And the love story.  I kept on thinking, what if she gets pregnant?

Although a visually stunning film, Passengers fell flat when the storyline became a run-of-the-mill romance.

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Collateral Beauty

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MCollateral Beauty

Director: David Franel

Writer: Alan Loeb

Starring: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Peña, Helen Mirren, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley; Jacob Latimore.

Who doesn’t love watching an intricate set of dominoes fall?  But when I realised this was the disintegration of Howard’s (Will Smith) heart, the final crash of those dominoes took on a new meaning.

After the death of his daughter, Howard is falling apart.  He does nothing but set up those dominoes only to watch them fall.

Once a successful advertising guru, the company is starting to fail because advertising is built on relationships so when the guru falls, so does the company.

Howard exclaims in a speech at the beginning of the film, the 3 truths of life: Death, Love and Time.

So when his daughter dies, it’s the 3 truths he writes to – posting a letter to each, expressing grief and anger that his daughter has been taken from him.

I don’t know why I always go into a Will Smith film with a cringe.  I know he has that frank, openess that has a way to pull the heart strings, and the cast had to be amazing to pull this script into a realm of belief.  And you just know you’re going in for a tear-jerker which I’m not a fan of.  But at this time of year when maybe you’ve had a health scare, or the family’s not quite right, it’s nice to go into that suspension of reality.

I haven’t seen Edward Norten in a film for a while and have to say I was worried when he showed up in khaki pants.  However, I bite my tongue because it got to me, this film about death and fear and love and loss and the great equaliser, time.

The soundtrack had something to do with this.  And the all-star cast.  Who else could pull off Death but Helen Mirren?

And notice I’m not going on about the directing, cinematography, costuming (although I had a few issue here with those fake blue contacts and khaki pants!) – it’s just not noticeable.

I was absorbed at the beginning with the fall of those dominoes and then held watching well-known actors dealing with stuff we all have to tackle, at some stage.

This isn’t my favourite type of film, but if you’re in the mood, Collateral Beauty is a wonderful escape.

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