Green Book (AU - M/UK - 12A/US - PG-13)

In a Word: Superb

GreenBook

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali star as Tony "Tony Lip" Valleylonga and Dr Don Shirley in Green Book.

 

"Cleverly crafted, Green Book manages to pack a punch without feeling like it's doing so. Despite the challenges they are confronted with along the way, it's an ultimately uplifting journey. A must see."

It's the based-on-truth story of an unlikely friendship and an equally unlikely roadtrip across the Deep South of America in the 1960s.

Tony "Lip" Vallelonga (played by Viggo Mortensen) is a working class Italian from the Bronx in New York City who works as a bouncer and general fixer in the Copacabana Club. When the club is closed for renovations, he's left short-handed financially and is soon offered the chance to apply for the job of being a driver to a mysterious Dr Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali).

Dr Shirley, it turns out, isn't a medical doctor as Tony assumes, but one of the finest jazz piano players the world has ever seen. He's also black. Having made the courageous decision to tour America's southern states with his trio - Russian bass player Oleg (Dimiter D Marinov) and cellist George (Mike Hatton), he needs a driver who can also handle any trouble they meet aloing the way (a likely scenario given where they were travelling).

Man-of-the-streets Tony fits the bill and, despite the fact he has to leave his wife Dolores (Linda Cardellini) and children for eight weeks (and despite his almost unthinking racism at this point), he agrees to take the job. And so they head off on a roadtrip that quickly brings into harsh light issues of racial injustice and prejudice.

The film, written and directed by Peter Farrelly (better known as one half of the Farrelly Brothers responsible for the likes of more run-of-the-mill comedies like Shallow Hal and Dumb and Dumber), does so with nuance and thoughtfulness and it's not just confined to race - issues like class differences are also explored at some depth and, like the rest of the film, with plenty of good-hearted humour.

The title comes from The Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide produced between the mid-1930s and mid-1960s for African-Americans travelling through the country's south. Dr Shirley gives it to Tony as they embark upon the journey.

The strength of this film lies in the acting and Mortensen (Lord of the Rings, Hidalgo) and Ali (Moonlight, Hidden Figures) both give what can only be described as exceptional performances in bringing to life the two characters around whom this story weaves. There is an exchange of cultures along the journey including which includes Tony sharing his passion for KFC and Dr Shirley sharing his love of classical music, correct grammar and how to construct an elegant letter.

Walls are broken down along the journey as they make their way across a country Tony's never had the chance to see before and Dr Shirley has seen all too much of. Both find their perceptions challenged as they're forced to confront life in the others' shoes.

Cleverly crafted, Green Book manages to pack a punch without feeling like it's doing so. Despite the challenges they are confronted with along the way, it's an ultimately uplifting journey. A must see.