Home » Green Book review – A Heartfelt Tragic Tale of Two Worlds Colliding | Zurich Film Festival 

Green Book review – A Heartfelt Tragic Tale of Two Worlds Colliding | Zurich Film Festival 

by Ben Rolph

Green Book tells the story of Tony Vallelonga aka Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) and Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a world-class pianist and Tony, his driver and bodyguard, for a tour down to the deep south. The two come from completely different worlds, It is based on a true story – Tony, an Italian-American bouncer born and raised in New York. Don, an African-American well educated pianist.  

Directed by Peter Farrelly, known for his comedies with his brother. This outing in exploring a more serious approach to film is a outstanding achievement – his direction is impeccable, portraying a clear vision throughout and is defiantly up for Oscars this coming year. Winning the People’s Choice award at TIFF 2018, everything you have heard is true – it is a remarkable piece of film. 

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Viggo Mortensen drives the film with his Goodfellas-like character Tony Vallelonga, rooting from influences in the gangsta genre this twist on the Italian-American trope is executed with such charm and compassion. His performance is Oscar-worthy. Mahershala Ali puts on a subtle performance that becomes more and more compelling as the narrative develops, like Mortenson he is up for best supporting actor, Shirley must follow the Green Book for places to stay down south for coloured folks – he deals with racism constantly, stereotypes are challenged and the film must be complemented on its approach to racism in the 1960’s conveying a real sense of inner-terror he feels. 

The film is a buddy road trip film, combining elements of different genres – mainly gangster and comedy, this mix in genre creates a compelling feeling of worlds colliding as true with our characters both coming from two completely different walks of life. The cinematography by Sean Porter is exquisite, capturing the innocence and toughness of the characters and world they live in. The combination of close ups and long-shots create an intimate effect helping us to delve further into the characters and their arcs. 

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As mentioned the film captures the brutality of being a coloured person in America, not just in the south but the whole of the country. This film is about acceptance and family at it’s core, Tony Lip begins as a simple unaccepting New Yorker and ends as a better-educated accepting man, Shirley challenges what others are afraid to do – sometimes frustrating as he rebels against rules and normally ends up in bad situations, but his power and fame for being a pianist performing to rich white folks is presented as a some-what benefit as he is friends with President Kennedy which is revealed in a shocking and hilarious scene in a Police station. Yet, as Shirley says: If I’m not black enough, or if I’m not white enough then tell me Tony, what am I? This line presents the notion that is portrayed through these two very separate communities – he is different, but making a difference. 

The Italian-American family aspect is remarkably brilliant, with Linda Cardellini playing Doleres who for my money deserves a nomination – also backed by real-life son of Tony Lip, Nick Vallelonga and an extensive number of other actors, paying homage to The Godfather and Goodfellas with the back and forth nature of a New Yorker’s frantic family life. This fruitful aspect plays as a contrast to Shirley’s life, alone – by the end, he is family. 

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This heart-warming tragic piece of cinema is an example of what you don’t see everyday – a fruitful story between now two great friends from different worlds, full of love, adventure, tragedy and humour – a masterpiece. A modern Godfather. 

Green Book was met with a standing ovation and the audience roared, including myself at the Zurich Film Festival – this is NOT to miss, my new favourite film of the year. 

5/5 Stars 

Ben Rolph 

Green Book premiered at Toronto and later at Zurich Film Festival in September and Universal is set to release it in cinemas

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