Film Review: “Moffie” (2019)

Photo by IFC Films

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Nicholas Van der Swart (Kai Luke Brummer) already knew he was different. He was just lucky that in an era of heightened homophobia, racism and intolerance, he had parents who did not punish him for staying closeted. But when the time arrived to serve his mandatory two years in the army, Nicholas faces the true definition of being a moffie, fighting to hide who he really is, to escape the highest punishment in the army where hatred towards gays is institutionalized.

Moffie is a South African offensive slang, meaning effeminate or homosexual man. If one is caught, especially in the army, you witness what happens to them in the film. It becomes obvious to Nicholas that he must do everything possible to hide his true self. But when he meets another mate, who gets attracted to Nicholas, it changes everything; his perspective about himself, his time in the army, and how he can release the man hiding within himself to be out and free and happy.

“Moffie” is filled with offensive language to the point your ears will start hurting. However, there is no simpler way to capture a brutal army, the language used to train new recruits, or, as it states, to turn young and green into mature and strong men. Set during the time of apartheid in 1980s South Africa, the film follows its kind-hearted protagonist Nicholas, who must embark on a difficult and life-threatening journey of self-discovery and assurance. He can and must complete his duties toward his country that literally sees him as mentally unstable.

Oliver Hermanus’ fourth feature film is filled with not just the subtle storyline of a young man, who secretly struggles with himself, as slowly his affection for Stassen (Ryan de Villiers) comes to the fore. It captures a dark era in South Africa, hatred towards blacks and gays. The film manages to capture both aspects of it through the prism of its protagonist who must, at all cost, survive the dreadful and exceptionally brutal army service.

Based on André-Carl van der Merwe’s memorable memoir, “Moffie” is a beautifully shot period drama that offers everything for you to enjoy it except for comedic scenes, understandably, with the subject matter it had no room for entertainment. Having that said, there is a lot we can learn from this poignant story and one of them is too obvious – we simply cannot allow ourselves to repeat the mistakes of the past. Being open-minded is key. But can we remain tolerant toward someone who does not share our lifestyle, belief or way of living our personal life? It’s the question we must ask ourselves now to be able to move forward towards a brighter life.

MOFFIE is available to rent on AppleTV on April 9th, and will be available this summer on IFC Films Unlimited.

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