Moonlight (2016) - Movie Review
Entering Moonlight, I could have never have imagined the emotional impact that this film would have on me as I left the theater. I expected a great movie, simply based on decent 99 out of 100 score on Metacritic, as well as the certified fresh rating of 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. It's safe to assume I expected some pretty good. After first viewing, I left this film a more changed man than I came in, due to the delicate, sincere storytelling by Writer/Director Barry Jenkins. Along with universally fantastic performances throughout, Moonlight is a force-of-change of filmmaking that is not only one of the best films of the year, but of the decade.
Moonlight tells the story Chiron, an African American who we see through three stages of his life (youth, adolescence, adult) in Miami, and the his struggle of self-discovery. That's the most basic way to describe this film without giving too much away, because I believe the less you know about this film, the more of an impact it will have on you.
I love how Barry Jenkins paces his story that he's telling in this film. He doesn't feel the need to rush this story that's happening, but tell it in a way that submerses you into the world of Chiron, and the unbearable emotions he deals with. Because of this, even the slightest issue that our lead character deals with feels like a stab in the heart. That's again due to the incredible direction from Jenkins, who is most certainly Oscar-worthy for his direction of this film, as well as the excellent screenplay written by Jenkins adapted from the Taren Alvin McCraney's play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. Also deserving high praise are the the performances by all members of lead cast, whether it be Mahershala Ali, Naomi Harris, Janette Monae, as well as the three actors who played Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevonte Rhodes) and Kevin (Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, Andre Holland). These were all very precise, performances, with punches exactly when the film called for them. In terms of Oscar consideration, most of these actors and actresses could only really be considered for Best Supporting Actor/Actress, due to the fact that most of them only appear in one of the three parts of the film (save Naomie Harris, who appears in all three acts). The camerawork in this film was also astonishing. Not only does this film look slick and beautiful, with the light of the burning sun scorching down on the film, as well as the street lights of the city creating an dull glow on the Miami nightlife. The D.P. James Laxton really did a fantastic job of not only making the film look fantastic, but using excellent camera techniques to jerk up the tension in the film, with one of the most effective being extreme close-up POV shots of characters. These allow the audience to squirm in their seats and truly feel the struggle that Chiron feels in his life. However, the best part of this film is the theme it completely hammers home. At it's core, it's about discovering who you, and whether you'll let someone else determine who you are, or if you'll decide that for yourself. It also says something about whether you'll let a label define who you are, or if you're bigger than that. The way this film depicts this, whether it be through Chiron's discovering of his sexual identity, his damaged life he had growing up due to his mother and where he lived, or the bulling he received throughout his childhood. This is a theme that will allow Moonlight to remain a timeless film for years to come, because we live a society so hell-bent on self-image that no one can seem to really discover who they really are.
I'm going to be completely honest... There's no flaws here. This film's as perfect as it can be.
The Wrap Up
Moonlight is a film that tackles very difficult subject matter in a sensitive, but powerful way. This is the film that deserves to be cherished for years to come not just by the social groups that may identify with this film, but by everyone. It deserves lots of love at the Oscars across the board, whether it be Best Adapted Screenplay, Directing, Acting, and most definitely Best Picture.