Sam’s Take: “Arrival” and “Moonlight” help to restore hope

Illustration by Carson McNamara
Illustration by Carson McNamara
Illustration by Carson McNamara

These past few weeks have been emotionally draining, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum.

With America’s stifling climate, Denis Villeneuve’s newest film “Arrival” and the indie darling “Moonlight” could not have come at a better time. Telling stories of hope and love during humanity’s darkest times, both films were able to give me some solace.

“Arrival’s” uniquely realistic take on an alien invasion movie impressed me during the first hour. Instead of trying to destroy the aliens, all the world powers are trying to understand them, constructing a more thought-provoking “what-if” scenario.

With “Moonlight,” we are given a genuine and personal look at growing-up as a black gay man in an American urban environment as we follow Chiron during three important periods in his life.

The realistic tone of “Arrival” is strengthened further by Amy Adams’ show stealing performance, proving how great of an actress she can be. The special effects are also a show stopper, but ironically so, as they are never flashy, but simple and effective.

Yet, the film methodically reveals its true colors as time goes on, explaining a genius twist that strengthens its themes rather than distracts from them. By the end, you realize that “Arrival” has done what all great sci-fi stories do, place on mirror in front of society. Without going into spoilers, Villeneuve has crafted an inspirational film and managed to release at the time when many of us need it most.

The performances in “Moonlight” are also incredible, with all three actors who play Chiron nailing the character’s nuances, making me forget that these were three different actors and not just one person growing up before our eyes.

While this all might sound too sentimental, “Moonlight” never feels exploitative or manipulative. It instead feels genuine, taking a quiet, beautiful approach to telling its engrossing story of struggle and acceptance in finding one’s identity.

There’s no big twist, no life-altering revelation, but this works in the films favor. The audience is left to think about the subject matter rather than the filmmaking techniques behind the story, making for a more effective narrative that will stick with you long after you’ve left the theater.

These films have very little in common on the surface, but ultimately both are about having hope and strength in the face both uncertainty and certain doom. They show that as a nation, and as a global community, we need now more than ever to stay strong and cherish what makes existence great.

While “Arrival” and “Moonlight” may have accidentally come out at the perfect time, they will stand as amazing films long after the heightened emotions of the 2016 election have faded. Held together by expert directors and nuanced performances, these films have easily become my favorites of the year.

Rating: The Hopeful Double Feature That Everyone Will Be Talking About Come Oscar Time.

Samuel Goodrich, Staff Writer

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