This film incredibly tackles multiple issues without sledgehammering any of them.
The story follows the life of Chiron, a quiet, young black man living in Miami, as he struggles to find his place in the world.
Moonlight has been nominated for eight Academy Awards (results of which are in two days, as of this review) four BAFTAs and won the Golden Globe for Best Picture. It really isn’t hard to see why.
But Moonlight arrives at a very turbulent time, especially in the US. A highly acclaimed movie centred around a homosexual black American living in a drug-fueled neighborhood of Miami, where his mother is an addict getting her fix from the one man who actually behaves like a parent to him. Yeah… that ought to turn some heads!
But I was still reserved going into Moonlight – I never buy into Academy hype or Oscar bait – for example I didn’t like Boyhood, another film that follows a young boy through to adulthood. But Moonlight is an expertly crafted film.
Almost immediately do we get a fantastic piece of direction, with two men simply talking on the street. The camerawork from writer/director Barry Jenkins swings and swoops around gracefully, somehow all in one shot it nails the characters’ switching eyelines and important elements in their surroundings. From here you know you are watching a film made by someone who knows what they are doing.
Most importantly for me however is the execution of the subject matter. You were likely wincing at my above mentioned summary; this isn’t exactly the easiest of premises in today’s volatile social climate. But it is an extraordinary film, and not just in its timeliness.
This film doesn’t sledgehammer its subtexts or its premise. This isn’t 2004’s Crash levels of blunt force trauma. In fact, despite its certificate 15, Moonlight is incredibly subtle, honest and reserved with its implementation. It isn’t overly glossy or gory, sexualised or even intent on showing drug abuse, it mostly just hints at these things; it gives you enough information for you to fully understand. This makes the film surprisingly relatable and a very human experience.
The film is broken into three chapters set at different points in Chiron’s life: childhood, teen and young adult. All three actors who play the character, Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders (Straight outta Compton) and Trevante Rhodes (Westworld) are exceptional in the role as an extremely quiet and reserved young man full of difficult emotions he cannot express to anyone. In fact, perhaps the strongest moment is at the end of young Alex R. Hibbert’s childhood chapter!
Frankly all the actors in this film are exceptional, not one of them stood out from the others. Naomi Harris (Moneypenny in the recent Bond films) is terrific as Chiron’s drug-warped mother, her and all three Chiron actors have great chemistry that harmonises across the timeline.
It isn’t quite all doom and gloom either, I was surprised at the amount of honest humour that the characters – namely Chiron and his friend Kevin – share together.
It is an intense film but it shows an incredibly human story with honest and subtle implementation. It didn’t drag either despite moments of near total silence or muted conversation, just a well rounded and flawless experience. I honestly can’t think of anything wrong with it.
It might not be for everyone (that is an impossibility anyway) but if you care about film I would highly recommend you check it out.