Review: Moonlight (15, 1hr 51mins)

Moonlight 01

Wow! The Oscars, eh? What can I say that hasn’t already been said? For those of you who don’t know, La La Land was mistakenly announced as Best Picture winner after a mix up with the envelopes. So whilst the paper cuts on Warren Beatty’s hands are still healing from when La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz snatched the winning card from his grasp (YouTube it, I dare you; it’s cringe-worthy!), I thought I’d catch up with the real winner of Best Picture and watch  Moonlight before it leaves our cinema screens.

It’s a shame the Oscar controversy has overshadowed its deserved success, as Moonlight is an outstanding film.

Based on a previously unpublished play entitled In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, Moonlight tells the story of Chiron at three different stages of his life: pre-teen, teenage and adult. The film is an account of his struggles to identify who he really is and how he fits into a world where his family and peers appear to reject him.

Moonlight 02

This film is a remarkable piece of work that transcends the cinema screen and reflects a life outside the auditorium that is shamefully absent from the film industry. Moonlight has proven that you can take a story about race and sexuality and create a critically-acclaimed and awarded-winning film on a fraction of the budget and star-power that most Hollywood Execs are deluded in believing guarantees success. Here’s hoping the Oscar win for Best Picture paves the way for more quality work of this ilk. Themes such as these that are side-lined in the film industry are brought front and centre by director Barry Jenkins, who excels in telling this story with a sensitivity and tenderness that is difficult to achieve without falling into the melodrama trap. Jenkins isn’t afraid to show the audience the devastating effects of homophobic abuse on a young boy’s soul as he struggles to find himself and a place in the world around him. The writing is so naturalistic and the performances of the actors are so in tune with the characters they are portraying that Jenkins succeeds in making this film a series of moments that you could spend an infinite amount of time in. He has portrayed a living and breathing world that you could get lost in despite its relatively short running time. Mahershala Ali is a revelation as Juan, the drug-dealing father-figure to Chiron, and in any other year Naomie Harris would have run away Moonlight 03with the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her unrecognisable portrayal of Chiron’s drug-addled mother. The three actors who play the lead at different stages of his life are so alike in their personalities that you are convinced that each portrayal is the same person. An incredible achievement.

However, I am surprised by the amount of five-star reviews this film is receiving. Whilst it is a great film that thoroughly deserved its Oscar win, it isn’t perfect. Despite everyone apparently weeping in the aisles when the credits rolled I found myself appreciating what I saw without the outpouring of emotion. I think this is because Jenkins’ creative flair felt a little heavy-handed in some scenes and got in its own way. The film would have benefited from the same approach Lenny Abrahamson took with Room, who just let a profound story do the work. Some of the camera movements are nauseating, and the editing can be jarring and a little disjointed. It also ends abruptly with no satisfying resolution, and I think a little more time spent exploring the adult life of Chiron would have been welcome. The final act wasn’t rushed, but it wasn’t as well-developed as the previous two acts that came before it. Also, and no spoilers here, when a certain thing happens to a certain character that would have ripped another character to pieces, the screen time it gets amounts to nothing more than a throw-away comment. All these negatives left me feeling cold when I should have been in floods of tears…

…but, hey, what do I know? I haven’t met many people that agree with me so maybe my heart is just turning to stone. La La Land and now Moonlight have left me thinking: “This is a great film but why is everyone crying?” so there’s only one thing for it…

…come on, A Monster Calls, break my heart!



3 thoughts on “Review: Moonlight (15, 1hr 51mins)

  1. I think Moonlight is one of the best films of all time, but I appreciate your logical, constructive criticism. I always talking about it is a champion of realism, but perhaps it would’ve indeed been even more effective had Jenkins been like Room and not gotten too into his creative flair, like you said.

    However, I do like how most of the scenes that were overly-creative and not realistic—namely Chiron walking up to the beach to see Kevin having sex with that girl (before he wakes up at Theresa’s house), Chiron’s nightmare flashback that plays in reverse of his mom yelling “Don’t look at me!” (with the vibrant pink light beaming from her room), and the beautiful shots of Kevin smoking that cigarette in front of his restaurant—were all part of dreams, so that didn’t really jeopardize the continuity of realism to me. I didn’t connect that all three of those parts were dreams until second and third watch, and that really helped me confirm that they weren’t out of order.

    Obviously, all of the above opinions are highly subjective, but I just wanted to offer a possible perspective on why none of the technicalities and artistic experimentation—at least to some of us—did not harm how monumental and perfect the film is already. Thanks again for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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