Moonlight is one of the front-runners in this year’s Oscar race, and would probably be a heavy favourite to take home the main prize if it weren’t for the juggernaut of La La Land. A deeply personal story, this is a film that has gotten a whole lotta praise from a whole lot of people.
In fact, Time Out New York called it “the reason we go to the cinema” and Rolling Stone were so enthralled that they left the theatre “as different people than we’d come in”. High praise indeed, but does Moonlight live up to the hype?
And while Moonlight is a fantastically acted and directed film – no, I don’t think it lives up to praise that is that high. I’m not sure, however, that any film can.
The film tells the story of Chiron, a boy growing up in a poverty stricken (and mostly black) suburb in Miami, raised by a single crack addict mother. Chiron soon connects with Juan, a cuban drug dealer who accepts Chiron into his family and gets the shy boy to open up. The film continues on showing Chiron’s transformation from a shy child, to an emotionally damaged teen trying to deal with his own sexuality, until eventually we see him become a drug runner in an effort to squash his own emotions.
The cast is fantastic, led by the triple leads of Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes as Chiron in various stages of his life. But the real magic comes from the supporting cast of Janelle Monae, as Juan’s wife Theresa, Naomie Harris (Skyfall, Spectre) as Chiron’s drug-addled mother and Mahershala Ali (Luke Cage) as Juan. The latter two are nominated for Academy Awards for their performance, and Ali is the frontrunner to win in his category of Best Supporting Actor. It’s easy to see why, the trio put on a masterclass of acting prowess and all will no doubt receive a huge boost to their careers as a result of this film.
The direction also is absolutely phenomenal in scope. In fact, I remember sitting during one scene of a young Chiron playing in the ocean and realizing that the shots were reminiscent of Kubrick’s style. And I don’t say that lightly, Stanley Kubrick was one of the greatest directors of all time, and never put a foot wrong. And to be compared to the master like that in my mind is a huge achievement for director Barry Jenkins.
OK… maybe sometimes Kubrick stumbled a little bit….
But the biggest problem, overall, that I had with this movie was that plot point sort of just… disappeared. It was a problem that stemmed from the 3 part structure, with huge timejumps between the parts into different periods of Chiron’s life. But as a result, characters have a story arc set up and then it just… ends. It’s very bizarre and very jarring, at least to me, although it didn’t seem to bother the folks at Rolling Stone all too much. So what do I know?
I imagine the Rolling Stone office is just covered in posters for Moonlight at this point.
Overall, I’d have to say that this is less of a “great movie” and more of an “important movie”, if that makes sense. It wasn’t made in a way that changed the game, and there were issues with the storytelling. But there’s no denying that a story about a gay, black teenager growing up in the ghetto is a story that mainstream audiences perhaps haven’t been exposed to yet, and being exposed to that would help increase understanding and reduce discrimination. So I cannot fault the movie for that, and the vast majority of the movie making elements were excellent as well. So I recommend everyone to see this film – just don’t take your expectation levels from Rolling Stone
4.2/5 – An important film that shows a confronting tale that needed to be told.
During my absence from this site, the film community lost a couple of major stars, so on behalf of Another Bloody Critic, I would like to pay my respects and remember the careers of Mary Tyler Moore – best known for her work on TV (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show), Moore was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Ordinary People – and Sir John Hurt – star of Alien, 1984, The Elephant Man, V for Vendetta, Harry Potter and Doctor Who, amongst countless others. Both will be horribly missed. RIP.