For Reel


Loving (2016)
April 23, 2017, 3:09 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Jeff Nichols
3.5 Stars
Loving.jpgJeff Nichols is a great American poet of landscapes. Each of his films is first and foremost about the open road and rural communities—even Midnight Special, the director’s sci-fi film about a young boy with special powers, detailed the freeways and the motels that dot them as much as the supernatural elements. Loving, though having all the makings of a rabble-rousing historical drama, is similarly seduced by the ground level details. When Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) promises his wife that he will build her a house, the sentiment is one we’ve seen in dozens of films. Nichols, though, takes special care in detailing Loving (a bricklayer) at work—his romantic dream is visualized in a trade that is draining, exhausting, and seemingly excruciatingly slow. Regardless, whereas a lesser filmmaker might have left it at the promise, Nichols goes as far as to let the audiences in on the texture of the brick, and the effort and dedication it truly takes to build something. Similarly, just as in his previous films, the setting surrounding the characters is not only essential, but it creates most of the drama. When Richard and his wife Mildred (Ruth Negga) settle down, Richard becomes a guard dog—here, “home” is something that can be threatened, invaded, or taken away, and the permanence of his relationship is bound up entirely in their continued cohabitation in the home.



Midnight Special (2016)
April 17, 2016, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Jeff Nichols
4 Stars
Midnight SpecialOver the past decade, director Jeff Nichols has carved out a career of family dramas which focus largely on father-son relationships and, particularly, histories of regret and bitterness between loved ones. The catch is that his latest films deal with something extraordinary—in Midnight Special, the young son (Jaeden Lieberher) is gifted with supernatural abilities that make him targeted by both cult members and the government. And yet to say the film is about fugitives on the run does a disservice to the countless quiet, small moments that reflect on the ties that both bind and separate people. Characters in Nichols’ movies often have a history that they’re running from, but in Midnight Special that is extended to an ambivalence towards the future—although every parent wishes the best for their child, the anxiety of letting them go is a consuming one. Some have taken exception to where Midnight Special goes the third act, but the events that unfold don’t cheapen what came before. Whereas the otherwise excellent 10 Cloverfield Lane hinged completely on a single question, the nature of the magical child of Midnight Special is not so much the concern as is how those around him will cope with the new information, and how far they can take him in order to fulfill his ultimate destination.