Out Now On-Demand
This is the story of a lifetime.
Going from childhood, to teenagehood, to adulthood, this winner of Best Drama at the Golden Globes follows an African-American man trying to understand himself and his sense of love in Miami's poorer district - a hard-skinned place that wants to predefine him.
Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actor (Ali), Academy Awards 2017; Best Picture (Drama), Golden Globes 2017
- Barry Jenkins (based on the play by Tarell McCraney)
Drama, Festival & Independent
Rating: M Violence, offensive language, drug use and sex scenes
The ability to evoke empathy and compassion from sound and images is a magic reserved for only great films. This is all Moonlight wants, and with the precision of a cinematic diamond cutter, filmmaker Barry Jenkins has crafted a great three-chapter chronicle of a soft-spoken black man named Chiron whose true self is constantly denied by the environment that engulfs him. The feeling is universal, and it was enough to turn this white-skinned, hetero, middle-class Irish Māori into a punctured bagpipe of wheezing emotion.
The first chapter follows little bullied Chiron during childhood, taken under the wing of the streetwise Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his partner Teresa (Janelle Monáe). “What’s a faggot?” asks the boy, said with an uncomfortable innocence that bluntly – yet brilliantly – cements the tone and theme surrounding the identity confusion he’s experiencing, and Ali brings such effortless warmth to the father figure who prepares Chiron for that future chaos.
As a teen in chapter two, Chiron’s sense of self sees its highest and lowest points. It demands a lot from actor Ashton Sanders, and he delivers it all flawlessly. His unshakeable silence acts as his emotional hiding place, one he blooms out of during his first moment of sexual intimacy. But an act of heart-breaking aggression quickly shoves him back into his mental cell. When a teacher wants answers, he has no words and no desire to talk. With blood and tears mixing, he simply coughs out “You don’t even know.”
The third chapter – Chiron’s adulthood – is best experienced with no prior knowledge of what’s going to happen. With the exceptional setup in place, the film already has you in its hand. But what seems like a crushing grip is actually a tender embrace, and that’s all Chiron wants. That’s all anyone wants.
Time Out New York
Rolling Stone (USA)
New York Times
NZ Herald (Alex Casey)
Critics make black boys look gold
So it's definitely a masterpiece. Very interesting use of colour and non diegetic sound which create a really interesting mood and help us feel things with the character, really immersing us in the film. Certainly worthy of all its praise though won't interest people who aren't fans of the genre.
A unique and masterful display of one finding euphoria in an uncaring world.
Moonlight is what Hollywood needs right now, a beautifully written film that's filmed in a unique but immersive style, and has real characters rather than cookie-cutter characters. It's the perfect blend of raw emotion and euphoria that unites a cast where everyone shines. A film that I will never forget. Masterpiece, masterpiece, masterpiece.
There is a powerful message behind this movie for all people of race and sexuality.
Moonlight is directed by Barry Jenkins, it stars Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, Mahershala Ali, Naomi Harris and Janelle Monae.
Moonlight tells the story of Chiron starting from childhood to adulthood and his struggles in a rough Miami neighborhood.
Moonlight is filled with strong performances. Everyone in this movie was incredible, the three actors that portrayed Chiron were great. Granted they don’t have plenty of dialogues but their facial expressions and their body language, the way they embodied Chiron was phenomenal. The supporting casts were also great from Mahershala Ali to Janelle Monae and Naomi Harris in particular, who gave a memorable performance.
The story-telling is also great, the movie is divided in three chapters and each tells the story of Chiron at different ages. This worked particularly well as each chapter has a strong connection to the next. The story itself is incredibly powerful though our protagonist is a black gay man, his struggles are universally felt and plenty of people can relate to.
The movie moves quite slow, there are plenty of slow moving scenes and plenty of quiet and toned down dialogues. At two hour running time, you can feel the length.
Overall Moonlight will not be for everyone, this is a strong drama and this movie demands your whole attention in order for you to fully appreciate the beauty of it. That said, there is a powerful message behind this movie for all people of race and sexuality. With strong performances, phenomenal story-telling and a mature and humanistic story Moonlight is highly recommended.
A tapestry of lyrical moments and finely wrought detail on a journey for self-identity
Some films are best consumed whole while others give more joy through their fragments. For example, a holistic story with a big legacy is Brokeback Mountain (2005), the modern-day Western with two white gay cowboys as its ground-breaking heroes. Twelve years later, the remarkable film Moonlight (2016) walks into the Brokeback narrative space to echo similar themes but from the African-American experience. Rather than a big story, Moonlight is more a tapestry of lyrical moments and finely wrought detail that are best savoured piece by piece.
Unlike plot-driven stories with big dramatic events, Moonlight feels like an introspective meditation on human experience. It is framed into the three parts of a black person’s search for identity: Chiron the bullied loner kid, growing into the troubled teenager, to become the self-accepting man. Along the way, his physicality transitions from vulnerability, through confusion, to defiant strength, yet at each stage he is the same kid who doesn’t fit in. There are only three human anchors in his life: his unstable drug-addict mother Paul, a drug-dealing proxy father Juan, and his only friend Kevin with whom he shares his sexual awakening. He grows with few words spoken from behind a psychological shield that he carries to ease the pain of disconnectedness. The film’s all-black cast takes away the focus on race; what remains is a universal lonely man on a path to gay masculinity.
The best-fit genre label for this narrative is ‘coming-of-age’, but this story is less about happenings and more about being and becoming. In so many scenes we are hauled in to share how Chiron physically experiences his forward propulsion. The filming style is key to its intimacy, with its close-framed detail conveying a tactile sensuality and personal connection to Chiron. The film is a swirling montage of memorable metaphors: such as Chiron’s deer-like eyes reflecting terror of attacker and rescuer; a single falling tear depicting a torrent of pain; being cradled on water as a yearning for trust; his forgiving glare when Kevin betrays him; the open fingers grasping slipping sand one moment and physical pleasure the next; and his tortoise shell of heavy jewellery as a badge of machismo. Exquisite ambiguity and moral ambivalence is the colour palette of Moonlight, captured by handheld camerawork that conveys frenzied realism and uncertainty about what is around the corner. No other recent film has such an understated narrative with such an overwhelming richness of moment and detail.
Moonlight has more in common with impressionist paintings than modern cinema. It is soft-focused and visceral. It is not about race or sexuality or masculinity, yet it takes us into those spaces to experience the film rather than just watch. It defies holistic labels and compels engagement with its fragments. You do not see this film for entertainment but to share a journey into darkness to find light.