After all the hype surrounding Moonlight and it’s win for Best Picture Drama at the Golden Globes, I had to see for myself if it was truly as good as all the critics say.
Moonlight is a well made film, with fantastic performances. However, it does not qualify for me as some life changing experience that I’ll want to watch again anytime soon. I guess the subject matter just wasn’t my cup of tea, but it was definitely well made.
The film is split into 3 chapters, the first is called Little and we open on a young boy, Chiron, being chased by bullies in Miami. He is helped out by a local drug dealer named Juan(Mahershala Ali). Chiron begins to look up to Juan since he is being raised by an emotionally abusive and controlling mother named Paula(Naomie Harris) and needs a male role model. Juan also gets help from his girlfriend Teresa(Janelle Monae) and they try to stear Chiron on his own path and help him when he needs help. Chiron also has one friend, Kevin, who does not bully him. We come to find out Paula is also a drug addict and buys from Juan. Chiron asks Juan about this as well as help trying to figure out if he is gay.
Chapter 2 is called Chiron and shows him now in high school and still being bullied and struggling with his identity. His mother is still struggling with addiction so he is still getting help from Teresa. Kevin is still there as his one good friend and they share an intimate moment together. Before their relationship can go any further though, there is an incident at school that changes both their lives. After Chiron snaps on his biggest bully Terrel, we assume he is off to jail/juvenile detention.
Chapter 3 is called Black, after the nickname Kevin gave him in high school. However, now we find Chiron living in Atlanta as a drug dealer with a life similar to Juan. He is noticeably stronger and hardened from years dealing on the street. One phone call changes that for him as he reconnects with Kevin who he hadn’t seen or spoken to since high school. He decides to go visit his mother in rehab and forgive her for his treatment as a child, and then drives back to Miami to see Kevin.
Mahershala Ali(House Of Cards, Luke Cage) and Naomie Harris(Moneypenny in the 2 latest Bond films, Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3) are definitely deserving the attention given to their performances. They both had stereotypical roles but with a twist and they were able to make them more exceptional with their abilities. Harris was especially impressive with her emotional scenes and she filmed it all in 3 days with no rehearsal. Both were Globe nominees and will hear their names again come Oscar nomination time. Janelle Monae surprised me also as this and Hidden Figures were her first film roles. She will have a promising career ahead I think. 3 different actors played both Chiron and Kevin’s parts and the director Barry Jenkins made sure to keep the actors separated and to film their parts weeks apart to avoid influence from each actor on the role. This is only Jenkins 2nd film, but his technical flourishes and the cinematography are what made this film that much more enjoyable to watch and set it apart from other movies with similar story lines. It was a personal drama with a small cast, based on a play, yet it felt cinematic. I don’t think Moonlight will win best picture at the Oscars, but a nomination is in order. Not my favorite film by far, but well made and the performances make it worth watching.