Moonlight is an astonishing movie. Under the careful direction of Barry Jenkins it effectively tackles the subjects of life in poverty, drug addiction and closeted homosexuality, all while making you feel as though you are eavesdropping on real life events. I left the theater floored.
Moonlight tells the tale of Chiron, a young Black man growing up Liberty Square, Miami through 3 stages of his life: youth, teenager and adult. Each chapter is integral in Chiron coming to finally accept who he is, conquering some of the issues he faced throughout his life, culminating in realistically satisfying ending.
Barry Jenkins’ direction is impeccable. Each scene is essential. There is not one moment that is filler or out of place. The way in which the film is edited is even more remarkable, as evidenced by the transitions from chapter to chapter. Time doesn’t cut during standard events such as a holiday or birthday, rather in a key conversation or a character being sent to prison. Jenkins has a way of using tension, silence and subtlety to push the story forward. He never panders to the audience. There are moments in the film that defy immediate comprehension but later become clear. As a viewer you put your trust in his direction, and it completely pays off. When conversations about Chiron’s mother’s addiction or his sexuality come up, they aren’t presented to us in grand Shakespearean monologues, but rather in the actors subtle eye movements, which are testaments to the direction and acting capabilities on display.
When it comes to the performances of the all Black cast, everyone shines. All three actors who play Chiron in different stages of his life, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes beautifully capture this one character’s mannerisms and awkwardness in a believable and continuous way. When you see them on screen, you do not doubt for a moment they are all the same person. Naomie Harris gives a desperate and explosive performance as his drug-addicted Mother. Marshela Ali, from the recently release “Luke Cage,” does the same as Chiron’s unlikely father figure. Yes, the various actors who play Chiron stand out, but the fabulous supporting performances push it to a new level.
This film is not for the faint of heart. With graphic scenes of verbal and physical abuse, it takes it’s toll. I remember having to take a deep breath before heading back to my dorm from the theater. But that said, right now there is no movie playing that requires your attention as much as Moonlight.