Directed by Barry Jenkins.
Starring Mahershala Ali, Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Andre Holland.
A timeless story of human self-discovery and connection, Moonlight chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighbourhood of Miami.
Oscar season usually brings out the heavy-handed and emotionally manipulative films that force you to feel a certain way – Moonlight is not one of those films. A highly emotional and personal piece of filmmaking, it never at any points feels like it’s forcing you to feel a certain emotion or react in a certain way. It feels honest and unforced.
Set over three parts of Chiron’s life (childhood, teenager and adult), Barry Jenkins’ film examines identity, sexuality, race and expectation with nuance and grace. The first chapter has a subtle and strong performance from newcomer Alex R. Hibbert who is largely silent but delivers a powerful performance. This is also where we get to see Mahershala Ali as drug dealer with a heart of gold Juan. It’s not a showy performance and you could argue that it’s cliché. But there is something in Ali’s (now Oscar-winning) performance that is so quiet and reflective that it allows the audience to come to their own conclusions for his motivations. It’s a beautiful relationship and the chemistry between Hibbert and Ali is electric.
The second section is the toughest to watch. High school bullying, first sexual experiences and Chiron’s mother (Naomie Harris) is in the depths of her crack addiction. It’s harrowing and the most uncomfortable section of the film to watch. Ashton Sanders as Chiron doesn’t say much, but he has a hugely expressive face and the closing moments of this chapter are heart breaking.
The final section can only be described as sweet. After watching Chiron struggle through his various incarnations and identities, the conclusion to Moonlight is subtle and satisfying. Trevante Rhodes as the adult Chiron is superb and his crush Kevin played by Andre Holland share some of the most human scenes that we’ve seen on film in years.
Every performance in Moonlight is perfect and Jenkins’ direction is natural. The score blends classical opera with hip hop and R&B seamlessly. Moonlight is a quiet film with a big statement to make – and it does this expertly.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★