Buy Moonlight on Amazon Video
Written by: Barry Jenkins (screenplay), Tarell Alvin McCraney (story by)
Directed by: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Mahershala Ali, Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders, Naomie Harris
My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!
Moments in the childhood, adolescence, and adulthood of an African-American, gay man growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
Few movies capture such emotion and introspection. It's a small movie with a big impact. Conversations that are little more than a few words, hold your interest hostage. This movie trusts the viewer to pay attention and the actors to convey emotion. This leaves a lot to speculation, but doesn't leave anything unanswered.It's about a guy just trying to find his way in the world, and how small moments feed larger ones, dictating the trajectory of one's life.
Moonlight won the 2016 Best Picture Oscar, and Mahershala Ali won the best supporting actor award.
Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney both grew up in Liberty
City Florida with parents that weren't present. There was a lot of talk about being black and gay, but this is really a movie about not fitting in. What happens to the kid that never fits in? What happens when that kid makes a decision on who he wants to be? What life moments play a part in those choices?
This is broken into three chapters, depicting Chiron in middle school, high school, and then as a young adult. Each chapter has a different actor for the character. The three Chiron and Kevin
actors never met during production so that they each would come up with their
own interpretation for the character.
Chiron has never fit in, and he's never known how to act. He comes from a broken home and doesn't have a father figure. Most of his childhood is spent trying to avoid bullies and then his mom. As her addiction worsens, so does her parenting.
The movie is very subtle about everything. We see Chiron's mom in nursing scrubs in chapter one. We know she has a habit, and while the movie doesn't state what happened, we never see her in scrubs again. The movie generates a lot of questions, but all of them can be answered or at least generate a reasonable speculation.
When drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali) finds Chiron, he takes pity on him. We don't know why Juan befriends Chiron. Does he see a scared kid that needs help, does he see himself, or does he just want to do something good in the world? Juan is probably the first adult male that's ever shown any interest in Chiron. He's an intriguing character that has a huge impact on Chiron.
This, like so many aspects of the film, we can only guess about. So much happens off screen and in the characters thoughts that are never voiced. It's up to the viewer to make deductions. We can only wonder at what Chiron is thinking.
In the last scene of chapter one, Chiron asks Juan, "What's a faggot?" Juan tells him it's "a word used to make gay people feel bad." This is a brief glimpse into Chiron's mind and at his home life.
This is a slower paced movie, but it's almost hypnotic. The direction, framing, and colors are great, capturing the lush greens and sun's rays of Florida.
It trusts the viewer to pick up on so many small queues. High school isn't much better for Chiron. He thinks he's finally found a friend in Kevin, but a bully pushes Kevin to fight Chiron. Kevin follows the crowd. It's something he later regrets.
You want Chiron to stand up for himself, but when he does, you know the repercussions will be great.
In chapter three, a call from Kevin brings him back to Miami. You have to imagine Kevin has been holding onto the guilt from all those years ago in high school. Chiron never returned to high school and ended up in Georgia.
Kevin is surprised at who Chiron became, but Chiron responds that he built himself from the ground up. "At some point you got to decide who you want to be." That's advice that Juan gave Chiron, and he followed it. All of the events in Chiron's life, and we've just seen a couple of them, have made him who he is. He never fit in, and while he still doesn't, he's learned to cope.
This is an incredible film.