"The cinema is cruel like a miracle." -Frank O'Hara

Medicine for Melancholy [Barry Jenkins, 2008]

Barry Jenkin’s Medicine for Melancholy is many wonderful things.

1. It is not a mumblecore film.

2. It is an understated homage to Jean-Luc Godard’s À Bout de Souffle [Breathless, 1960]. The film’s cinematography emulates Breathless in its look and feel, and there are several direct (but not derivative) references to iconic scenes:

The most obvious allusion is to Michel making faces at Patricia in the bathroom.

Wyatt Cenac as Micah, mimicking Belmondo’s trio of expressions in his bathroom mirror.

And then there’s the t-shirt that Patricia wears as she hawks newspapers up and down the Champs-Élysées.

Tracey Heggins as Jo, with her short, short hair, and yellow Loden t-shirt  (as in Barbara Loden, director of Wanda).

And finally, a scene in which Michel and Patricia lounge around endlessly in bed, having an intimate and often meaningless conversation — as only lovers can.


It is a something of a cliché in film school to cite Godard as one of your favorite filmmakers. But Barry Jenkins has managed to evoke his love of Godard — and these quintessential, beloved moments from a film that cinephiles hold so dear — and make them his own. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Read an interview with Barry Jenkins from

Category: film reviews

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3 Responses

  1. Love the stills you chose to compare these films.

    Medicine For Melacholy is an excellent film that deals intelligently with the topic of race. Unfortunately, it’s only brain-dead films like Precious and Crash that seem to get any attention for dealing with that topic.

    Further Reading:
    Barry Jenkin’s Interview in The FADER

    Dennis Lim’s review in the New York Times

  2. no manifesto says:

    You mention cinephiles, so I am wondering, what is a cinephile? Why is this a good thing to be? Can you explain in a future post? A cinephile manifesto!

  3. brandi says:

    a cinephile is a lover of films.

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