Barry Jenkins creates a beautiful story of a young man at three stages of his life where he goes through the struggles of race, drugs and his sexual identity. Moonlight follows Chiron as a young African American boy growing up in a community suffering under drugs whilst coming to terms with his sexuality in a hyper masculine environment. The movie consisted of three acts each focusing on important moments in Chiron’s life, as a young boy, a teenager and a grown man in his twenties. The film consists of so many emotional punches that work so well with a slow burn that touches the audience in a way that not many films are able too.
Full credit must be given to the cast of Moonlight, who do an amazing job with this movie and its dense source material. Director Barry Jenkins drew a lot of this movie from his childhood as someone who grew up around the cultures witnessed in this movie. This meant that he was able to get realistic performances from the cast including an incredible performance from Naomie Harris (Skyfall, 28 Days Later) does an amazing job portraying Chiron’s drug addicted mother, a character inspired by Jenkins’s mother. Her scenes are incredibly hard to watch due to the way she demonstrates the selfish nature that is often associated with drug addiction. Her performance saw her receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and she is a strong chance to win it.
Marhershala Ali (House of Cards, Luke Cage) is another Oscar contender for his role as Juan a drug dealer who takes a young Chiron in and acts as a father figure to him, helping him navigate through the loss of innocence that occurs growing up in such a community. One scene between him and Alex Hibbert (Young Chiron) has so few words spoken but packs such an emotional punch that no words need to be said. Ali showcases his full range as an actor with some loving scenes whilst being able to become a thug and knowing his line of work is causing pain.
Jenkins made a decision to show the life of Chiron over three time periods, which required him to cast three different actors for the role. Alex Hibbert (Little), Ashton Sander (Chiron) and Trevante Rhodes (Black) all portray Chiron at the different chapter of his life and do an amazing job at it. All three are able to convince the audience they are the same person through mannerisms, language and actions. Ashton Sanders does amazing showing Chiron through out high school where his sexuality is drawn to light the most. Praise must go to Barry Jenkins for being able to use three different actors and being able to keep the audience invested in their character.
The first two acts of Moonlight are so intense, where you experience so much emotion with brilliant acting and direction, sucking the audience into the life of Chiron. The audience are so emotionally invested that when it comes to the third act, it is expect that there would be a level of emotional pay off whether it be good or bad. Unfortunately compared to the first two acts the third act lacks any emotional pay off. It is not that the third act is poor as it still shows how life has affected Chiron, it just feels like there is something lacking in the end.
I loved Moonlight and thought the subject matter was handled in such an incredible manner that Barry Jenkins should win for Directing and even for Screen Play adaptation. Many of his choices as a director pack such an emotional punch that the audience feels a strong connection with the characters in this movie. Marhershala Ali and Naomie Harris are both nominated for supporting roles and would be incredible to see them both win as their performances make this movie. Moonlight is a beautiful and tough film with a dense plot built around incredible acting and story telling. Though this movie ticks many of the boxes that The Academy like to see in Best Picture films it does not feel that it is a film made to win awards. It is a film with a powerful meaning for communities but in particular young men struggling with identity and life.
While I think this will win Best Picture I feel as though the third act was a slight disappointment so Moonlight scores an 75%. I recommend that everyone should see this movie.
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Image via IMDb