MPAA: Rated R for some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and language throughout
Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Mahershala Ali, Shariff Earp, Duan Sanderson, Naomie Harris
Synopsis: A chronicle of the childhood, adolescence and burgeoning adulthood of a young black man growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
It’s funny how specific events in one’s life, whether they are big or small, can affect one’s life and their identity. They can come from where you grow up or who you grow up with. Children are innocent beings, oblivious to their surroundings and what is right and wrong. They count on those who are close to them, those who care about them, to guide them a long the way and help shape who they end up being. This is what makes the story of Chiron, our main protagonist, so sincere and tragic. When we first meet Chrion, he is running with other children. When he ends up alone, we find him in an empty crack house. He picks up a used needle, clearly from a pervious drug partake, and treats it almost like a normal boy would have a toy airplane. Chiron is as innocent as any other boy of his age, curious of his surroundings, but is in an environment that is crime-ridden, dangerous, and sacrilegious. We later find out he is being raised in a small, sketchy, drug infested neighborhood in Miami, and by a single mother who is addicted to drugs. Moonlight basically chronicles the events in Chrion’s life that eventually shape who he will end up being by the end of the film, and it is just as fascinating as it is harrowing to behold.
Moonlight is written and directed by Barry Jenkins, and from a play written by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The story is mostly in relation to the life of McCraney, but Jenkins has made it very public how personal the story is to him as well. He has spoken in many interviews about how he grew up as a African-American boy in Miami, and how his mother was also addicted to drugs while he was growing up. Luckily, Jenkins was able to overcome these troubling times in his young life, and really make a name out of himself, but it is clear from the get-go how much this story meant to him, and how much time and effort he put into making this brilliant film.
Moonlight was only made for 1.5 million dollars, but that does not define how powerful and captivating it is. Jenkins simply tells an extremely relevant and important story in a way that only film can. The way the camera moves to the color scheme, to the musical score. Everything about Moonlight is extremely unconventional in the best way possible. Jenkins was inspired by foreign cinema. Moonlight on the surface might seem like just another American coming of age story, but is filmed in a way that Wong Kar-Wai, the great Chinese filmmaker, would make. Jenkins has gone on the record to say that Kar-Wai’s film style was greatly influential in how he made Moonlight. A long with the directing, the cinematography is also brilliant. The use of color is also very clever. When you get a chance to see this film, whether it is for a second time or first, try to focus on the colors shown in this film. More specifically the colors blue, red, and white. Jenkins is clearly trying to tell this story not only by words, but visually as well. This is why Moonlight is such a special film, and more importantly a piece of art. It is unique to look at, important to talk about, and very powerful to digest.
The performances in Moonlight across the board are all phenomenal. There are many different actors, some playing the same characters, showcased throughout this film, and they all give their own unique identity and uniqueness to their role. Some of the standouts include Mahershala Ali, the recent Best Supporting Actor winner at the Academy Awards, Naomie Harris, the British actress who plays the crack-addicted mother, and who shot the movie in only three days. And André Holland, who plays an adult version of the character Kevin. The three actors who play the different ages of Chrion are all great as well, and not for once does it feel like actors portraying this one character. You can tell by looking in the eyes of these different actors, that is the same person and soul of the character Chiron. Everything just came together perfectly in this film, and really stands out as one of the best, if not the best, film of 2016.
Moonlight won Best Picture at the Academy Awards this year, an award well deserved, and also very important for American filmmaking in general. Not only has a film centered around a LGBT character never won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, but also a film with an entire Black cast. The Academy Awards has been around for almost a century! This is a landmark event in our culture, and hopefully will bring out a different outlook for future Awards seasons to come. If you haven’t seen Moonlight yet than I absolute recommend it. It is a must-watch film that not only tells a very important and powerful story, but is also filmed and written extremely well by the director, and acted superbly by the ensemble cast. My overall grade for this film is: