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Toronto Film Review Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight

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Toronto Film Review: Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight

A24

Toronto Film Review: Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight

Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, the director’s first film since 2009’s Medicine for Melancholy, is an ambitious account of the life of a closeted black man from a rough childhood gripped by bullying and poverty to a hardened adulthood built on self-denial. At its best, the film mines much from the faces of the actors who play protagonist Chiron at various points in his life (Alex Hibbert as a shy child, Ashton Sanders as an awkward, searching adolescent, and Trevante Rhodes as a cynical adult), bridging these time periods through incredibly specific body language that each performer manages to share.

The Knick Recap Season 2, Episode 10, "This Is All We Are"

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The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 10, “This Is All We Are”

CInemax

The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 10, “This Is All We Are”

“The time to invest is when there’s blood running in the streets,” said young tycoon Henry Robertson (Charles Aitken), quoting Baron Rothschild in “Whiplash,” episode five of the second season of The Knick. In the season finale, “This Is All We Are,” the chickens of the Robertsons’ gilded-era capitalism come to roost in as many configurations as are possible.

Following the fiery death of Captain August Robertson at the end of the last episode, Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) appears ready to finally accept the socialite-housewife role expected of her—until her husband, Philip (Tom Lipinski), casually mentions that Henry has been supervising the family’s port business for years, meaning he ordered the murder of Cornelia’s colleague, Health Department Inspector Speight. It also means it was Henry who torched the new Knickerbocker Hospital in the last episode, resulting in their father’s death. That he, and not the captain himself, was responsible makes a hell of a lot more sense, but the same cannot be said for Cornelia’s years-long lack of awareness of her brother’s position within the family business.

The Knick Recap Season 2, Episode 9, "Do You Remember Moon Flower?"

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The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 9, “Do You Remember Moon Flower?”

Paul Schiraldi

The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 9, “Do You Remember Moon Flower?”

Tonight’s episode of The Knick, “Do You Remember Moon Flower?,” is bookended in flashbacks to Nicaragua, six years before the series takes place, that finally reveal the meeting of Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) and the Knickerbocker hospital’s benefactor, shipping magnate Captain August Robertson (Grainger Hines). Director Steven Soderbergh wastes no time establishing the stakes: Thackery arrives at an encampment where people are suffering from smallpox, having been called in under the impression he would be treating yellow fever. He encounters the captain handcuffed to a post, held hostage by the Nicaraguans after his form of compensation—“trinkets and blankets”—apparently started the outbreak.

The Knick Recap Season 2, Episode 8, "Not Well at All"

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The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 8, “Not Well at All”

Paul Schiraldi

The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 8, “Not Well at All”

If there’s merit in the idea of pretending each season of The Knick is one 10-hour-long movie, “Not Well at All” more than matches the position staked by the first season’s eighth episode: a headlong plunge into bleakness that abridges and re-contextualizes earlier breakthrough moments—not that things were looking especially up in this season’s previous go-rounds. Three of the show’s main characters—Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen), Dr. Everett Gallinger (Eric Johnson), and heiress/socialite Cornelia Showalter (Juliet Rylance)—are thrown existential curveballs that render their respective ethics systems powerless. Meanwhile, the Knickerbocker’s administrative head, Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb), manages to move apartments and purchase the freedom of his girlfriend, a young sex worker named Junia (Rachel Korine). While it’d be impossible to watch five minutes of The Knick without noticing the show’s (sometimes too-harmonized) juxtapositions of class structure, this episode sees its characters ground up especially in the gears of their own patriarchal systems.

The Knick Recap Season 2, Episode 6, "There Are Rules"

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The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 6, “There Are Rules”

Paul Schiraldi

The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 6, “There Are Rules”

Even if the at-times unbelievable density of The Knick’s second season has felt thus far like no accident, it’s a welcome change to see Steven Soderbergh digging his directorial heels deeper into fewer subplots in this week’s “There Are Rules.” For the most part, the episode bounces back and forth between two narrative through lines: Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) investigating the possible medical benefits of hypnosis, only to become obsessed with a pair of conjoined Belarusian twins (Miranda and Rebecca Gruss), and Dr. Bertie Chickering (Michael Angarano) performing an after-hours, radiotherapy-assisted operation on his dying mother (Linda Emond) at Mount Sinai Hospital.

The Knick Recap Season 2, Episode 5, "Whiplash"

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The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 5, “Whiplash”

Mary Cybulski

The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 5, “Whiplash”

Anyone who had an allergic reaction to the hokey old-flame subplot between Abigail Alford (Jennifer Ferrin) and John Thackery (Clive Owen) in The Knick’s first season will be let down by the opener of “Whiplash,” which offers yet another meandering push-and-pull conversation between them, this time about how much care Abigail needs in recovering from her syphilis treatment. For Thackery, there’s no such thing as too much. But after a wordless encounter between him and Lucy Elkins (Eve Hewson), who’s appointed by the hospital to check him for needle marks, the episode opens in earnest, with one of those scenes that make The Knick pretty much unlike any other TV series right now.

The Knick Recap Season 2, Episode 4, "Wonderful Surprises"

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The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 4, “Wonderful Surprises”

Mary Cybulski

The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 4, “Wonderful Surprises”

“Wonderful Surprises” is so over-stacked with incident as to make each scene work purely as exposition. The episode allows for a number of one-on-ones between characters, which director Steven Soderbergh successfully plays out in longer, more fluid takes. The first of these opens the episode immediately where “The Best with the Best to Get the Best” left off, with Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland) escorting his wife, Opal (Zaraah Abrahams), into what will be her new apartment, wherein she promptly goes about grilling him about his heretofore personal life. He confesses that he’s “met” somebody, by which he means Cornelia Showalter, with whom he grew up, but this disclosure has the curious effect of downgrading the intensity of Opal’s initial appearance on the scene. (Later we see them hanging out at a Harlem nightclub, and despite himself, Edwards looks to be having the best time he’s had on screen since mid-first season, maybe ever.)

The Knick Recap Season 2, Episode 1, “Ten Knots”

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The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 1, “Ten Knots”

Mary Cybulski

The Knick Recap: Season 2, Episode 1, “Ten Knots”

Steven Soderbergh’s period epic The Knick remains a smorgasbord of scrupulous period detail, as the second season’s all-business opener, “Ten Knots,” picks up exactly where last season’s beyond-bleak conclusion left off. Disappointingly, the naturalism and economy of Soderbergh’s approach continues to run contrary to the dramatic straits navigated by the show’s writers, Jack Amiel and Michael Begler. The eponymous New York City hospital has relocated uptown, relatively painlessly, and in keeping with the show’s pointedly unromantic vista on early-20th-century history, it continues to turn a profit, having severely curtailed its social-justice mission under the corrupt reign of administrator Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb).

The Knick Recap Season 1, Episode 9, "The Golden Lotus"

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The Knick Recap: Season 1, Episode 9, “The Golden Lotus”

Cinemax

The Knick Recap: Season 1, Episode 9, “The Golden Lotus”

Director Steven Soderbergh’s gift for unfussily blocking The Knick’s scenes is made awesomely apparent in the opening of “The Golden Lotus,” wherein Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen)—deep in the throes of his ongoing, beyond-gnarly cocaine withdrawal—breaks into a Greenwich Village pharmacy in the dead of night. After busting a glass cupboard to retrieve the drugs, he crouches into a shadowed patch of floor space to shoot up, only looking upward as policemen shine their light through the front door. Thinking he still has enough time to make a quick exit, he bolts for the other passageway, only to open the door and find a cadre of New York’s finest beaming their lights directly into his face. In the space of mere seconds, Soderbergh’s camera has followed Owen from entrance to exit, and the intuition of the scene transitions the audience’s sympathies from Thackery back to the world at large, while casting one hell of a pall over the rest of the episode.

The Knick Recap Season 1, Episode 7, "Get the Rope"

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The Knick Recap: Season 1, Episode 7, “Get the Rope”

Cinemax

The Knick Recap: Season 1, Episode 7, “Get the Rope”

Steven Soderbergh’s naturalism has worked both for and against certain strains in The Knick’s first season, and “Get the Rope” may mark the first time his dazzling, inventive shooting style just can’t support the dramaturgy. On one hand, it’s ballsy that the episode barely covers 24 hours: The show’s acute gift for slowing down and speeding up time has made its exploration of individual characters consistently intriguing, and paid off abundantly in the anti-resolution of “Start Calling Me Dad.” But instead of lingering, the tensions that erupted when Thackery (Clive Owen) happened upon Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland)’s makeshift clinic for black New Yorkers have been impossibly smoothed-out overnight. Formerly the show’s walking embodiment of educated white racism, Thackery now champions Algernon to an almost magical degree, with the hospital staff firmly aligned in his sympathy. It’s altruistic, and if you like the characters, the resettling of loyalties makes for reassuring viewing. For this reason alone, “Get the Rope” grips undeniably, but it also goes down feeling like the most disingenuous episode yet. It’s soapy, morally charged, and Grand Guignol all at once.