A Most Violent Year (2014) Dir. J.C. Chandor


Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) does business with honesty, transparency, and integrity. Yet, business is a tough lover that demands sacrifice.

Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of focusing on money as sole means and purpose. Abel does not. His competitors follow the money. Abel tries to do right by his employees, his family, even the people of New York. Unlike his competition, Abel understands the value of honest business and integrity in making money. His goal and desire is clean money. When he is investigated by D.A. Lawrence (David Oyelowo), a very righteous prosecutor, he doesn’t fear jail or bankruptcy. He fears “hell,” as he mentions in one scene. He refers to a personal hell that comes from cheating and conning people. He doesn’t want to play dirty, pull out the big guns. He wants to get rid of competitors, make them go out of business by providing the best service. When somebody steals his oil, he confronts all the big players in his industry to straighten things out. And yet we feel he is alone. He is exceptional, he is unlike others, and in that he is alone.

Maya Angelou once wrote,

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.”

Abel seems alone in his way of doing business. There are lines he never wants to cross. But he is not alone. His wife Anne (Jessica Chastain) is the woman behind, or rather next to the man. She is very different from him. We get hints that her past, although never explained, is ugly, perhaps criminal. She leans towards crossing some lines and pulling some strings that Abel wants to avoid. The dynamic between Abel and Anne is interesting to watch. They are a team. They would not be successful without one another. She is supporting, strong, and smart. She’s also this little voice trying to lead Abel astray. For that reason, she motivates him to push harder to do the right thing, to go the “most right” way, as he put it. The honest way seems lonely, but he wouldn’t have done it without her. This makes their story about a conflict between morals and money absorbing. Plus, Isaac and Chastain make this picture a pleasure to watch.

Long days, pleasant nights,

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