Moonlight Review

For us as humans, it’s our job to understand what needs to be done in our lives and take an effort to make it right. Many paths lead to the right or wrong way depending on what you decide. The question that needs answering to all of us, “Who are we?” But in this film, this is constructed like a dish that adds three movies all in one: It’s Boyhood with a little bit of The Place Beyond the Pines, and a pinch of Precious. Combine all those together and you get Moonlight in a coming-of-age story that pieces together in a personal light.

Split into three separate chapters, Moonlight chronicles the life of Chiron and the struggle throughout what he wants to do with his life, dealing with his own sexuality, and the pain of growing up in the kind of world he’s in. All spanning across when he was a young adolescent boy, a teenager, and as a full-grown adult.

Going into this, I really didn’t know a lot about what Moonlight was about, which is a great thing. From never watching the trailer, I wanted to go into this film blind as possible. And it’s definitely an important movie to come out at this time. Moonlight was terrific. For someone who’s black but knows his sexual preference, almost anybody can instantly relate to Chiron.

Mahershala Ali and Alex R. Hibbert in Moonlight (2016)

The performances were absolutely perfect as it’s some of the best of the year. The three actors who played Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) were incredible. Throughout the transitions of this character, it’s impossible to feel anything but a lot of remorse with him trying to struggle in this kind of world. Also, this character doesn’t talk too much, which is understandable. Throughout the stages of his life, it’s hard to see where he’s coming from. Especially at a young age, it’s hard to understand what’s happening to yourself. Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris. Ali as Juan is the kind of father figure to Chiron teaching him lessons about life. There was a deep conversation about if he’s a certain word and it just hits. For the limited screen time he’s got, he’s definitely Oscar worthy. And Harris as his drug-addicted mother was so haunting and sad. Most scenes I completely forgot that was Harris. This ensemble as a whole was flawless.

Speaking of flawless, Barry Jenkins’s direction was pure genius. There wasn’t a single frame that felt out of focused. Every scene was shot with style and realism. Along with the screenplay also written by Jenkins, based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In the Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, this has some strong dialogue with each of the character and it felt realistic to how everyone communicates with each other and it’s totally the way people in this culture pretty much do talk. The way he explores Chiron’s life is fascinating in the way it’s told. The cinematography by James Laxton was absolutely stunning as it showcases everything like a canvas.

Another thing I found interesting is that this is an all African-American cast here.

If there was any criticism, hard to actually say, there was a side where the pacing could’ve been a bit stronger and I was just hoping it would pick it up in a few scenes. And there wasn’t a clear explanation about a certain character later on in the film.

Personally, I don’t think this is the best movie of the year, to be honest. But I won’t disagree with anyone who says this is outstanding because I can honestly agree. Personally, it was a bit overhyped after hearing how great it was. Maybe when I re-watching, my mind could change.

But what I really love about this is that its message is about finding your own identity. Sometimes it’s hard trying to decide what or who you want to become in your future. It’s also hard who you try to defy yourself in your career or sexuality. It’s difficult to handle all that even if other people wouldn’t understand you. To quote Juan, “At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you.” It’s an act of discovery.

Beautiful filmmaking, power ensemble cast, and a story it’s carried with care on the different subject matters. Major props for Jenkins and this is going to the film that will be talked about his career of directing. Hopefully, his next movie will be something special like this.

Moonlight is a profound, beautiful, and realistic reality of one man’s journey into his life.

Grade: B+

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