Rating: 4 out of 5
Watching Moonlight can only be equated to riding a two hour emotional rollercoaster. Once it’s over, it leaves you breathless and wanting more. From sadness to hopefulness to anger, director Barry Jenkins drowns us in a wave of emotions. We’re plunged into the life of Chiron- a young black gay male- and watch him progress from a child to an adult. The film is split into three parts. Each third captures Chiron in the poignant stages of life: childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Although Chiron is played by a different actor in each stage, their depictions of him blend together perfectly. Moonlight is one of those very rare films, where each and every performance is outstanding. Naomie Harris adds real depth to her role of Chiron’s crack addicted mother. On the surface she’s manipulative and abusive but beneath the many layers of vindictiveness, there’s still somehow a sweet and maternal nature to her. Mahershala Ali plays Juan- by day he’s a caring mentor to Chiron and by night he’s a well-respected drug dealer. His switch in roles is a fascinating balancing act that really hooks you in. Ali embodies a fatherly figure role and is breathtaking to watch on-screen. Annoyingly, he doesn’t get much screen time but he’s more than worthy of his Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and in my eyes, he’s a clear winner.
There has always been an unfortunate stigma against homosexuality in the black community, even more so if the homosexual themselves is black. There’s something so refreshing about Moonlight and its approach to the topic. There’s no tiptoeing around the subject or treating it like it’s a 21st century taboo. Barry Jenkins is direct with his approach, immersing us into Chiron’s life without hesitation. He makes scenes suffocating and unsettling, forcing us to experience the isolation of a black gay man. His camera movement can be dizzying; it spins and whirls around Chiron, making him the centre point and bringing us into his world. Moonlight transports you from your cushy cinema seat, to the impoverished Miami neighbourhood where the story is set. The sporadic soundtrack is unlike any other. It’s an eclectic mix of Motown, orchestral music and hip hop. The songs don’t necessarily correlate but their placement is purposeful. They each reflect the essence of their scene and transform them from ordinary to visual master pieces.
During awards season, there’s always a film or two that gets overly and unnecessarily hyped up, cough cough* La La Land *cough cough. Moonlight isn’t one of them, it’s well deserving of its many accolades thanks to Barry Jenkins, the creative genius. He’s Hollywood’s man of the moment. He makes Moonlight so incredibly intimate, that we feel each of Chiron’s highs and lows as if they were our own. One can only hope that Moonlight’s success will encourage other film makers to follow in Jenkin’s footsteps and bring more stories of this kind to light.
Moonlight is out in cinemas now