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January 22, 2016

Film Review—A Most Violent Year


While trying to establish his heating oil business in 1981 New York, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) faces a difficult political situation. Being simultaneously investigate by the District Attorney while having his trucks hijacked at gunpoint (something he suspects of his rivals with ties to criminal enterprises) as well as facing threats from the unions if he does not adequately protect his drivers. Added to this is his responsibility to protect his family, with his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain), the daughter of gang leader, vowing to do something if he is unable to. All this comes to a head when Morales must pay for the site of his new plant within the confines of strict negotiations.


The film presents a richly dense plot, with many storylines folding in on each other. They seethe just under the surface, with tension rising, and the interactions between characters marked by an increasing uneasiness. Although resolving who is stealing his trucks and the completion of his payment for his new plant, there are many storylines, like his interactions with the D.A., that are transformed rather than resolved, adding to the richness of the implications of the films narrative.

After the film concludes there is the thought that there was more story to tell. This may sound like a criticism, the film not fulfilling all its narrative ends. On the contrary, it is one of the strongest points, and illustrates the films understated mastery. The wonderfully ambiguous ending (I resist calling it a conclusion) with its palpable tension leaving you wondering if an uneasy resolution has been made, is in keeping with the rest of the films restraint.
Andreas

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