Sunday, 5 March 2017

I've Just Seen: Moonlight (2016)

Director: Barry Jenkins

After its win at the Oscars last weekend, my local cinema finally decided to show 2016's Best Picture. Naturally I went, wanting both to support the film (and the cinema's decision to show it), and of course, to see what all the praise was for.

This is one of the most quiet films ever to be nominated for an Oscar, let alone to win the award. And this quietness gives the film its immense power. There is not exactly a story, more of a snapshot, or three, of the life of Chiron, a young black boy, then man, living in Liberty City, Florida with his drug addicted mother. He gets taken under the wing of drug dealer Juan as a young boy; has a deep and tender moment with his friend Kevin as a teenager, only to have his heart broken in a brutal way; and then as an adult, he confronts this painful, confusing episode from his past.

I am being deliberately vague, because this is a film to just let wash over you, like the water that makes an appearance frequently throughout the film. Chiron is one of the quietest character I have seen on film for a while, and I am not surprised that the more dialogue-heavy performances of Mahershala Ali as Juan and Naomi Harris as his mum were nominated (they are also fantastic as well). The three actors who play Chiron wonderfully portray the confusion, pain and desire that swell within him. Their performances also all meld together to create one character.

Moonlight is a film that grows on you, the depth of its emotions masked by the restraint of the filmmaking and performances. It is very beautiful, and very quiet in a way that requires you to pay attention and listen to it carefully. I loved it, but it took time for my feelings about it to settle. The story touches on other stories we have seen before - about being black, bullied, a drug dealer, or gay - and yet it approaches these things with a depth I haven't seen before. It is about coming to terms with who you are when choices seem limited, and accepting parts about yourself you can't change.


  1. I'm going to see Moonlight tomorrow. It's kind of odd that you posted on two films in a row that I was planning on watching in a few days completely independently of your posts. You don't happen to have Babes in Arms coming up pretty soon, do you?

    1. Hope you enjoy it! Strange how such things happen. Sadly, Babes in Arms in not in my near viewing future (though I know I shall see it one day).

    2. I knew very little about Moonlight going in, and I enjoyed it immensely. I love La La Land so much that I saw it twice at the theater (and I would probably be seeing it again next week if Kong Skull Island wasn't opening). But I can see why Moonlight won that Best Picture Oscar.

    3. And I should probably add that I loved Babes in Arms, which I watched before I went to bed last night. It had so much going for it, for my tastes, anyway. I live so many 1930s musicals. Plus it had a great Golden Age of Hollywood cast - Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Guy Kibbee, Margaret Hamilton, Reginald Denny. Some of the songs were kind of dumb, but the choreography was non-stop awesome, with each number including some little bit of business (like the bonfire during the number for the title song) that transcended the dumb lyrics. It also helps a lot that I love Old Hollywood's fondness for things like vaudeville and minstrel shows. Yeah, there's a minstrel show number that is OFF THE HOOK!

      Babes in Arms isn't quite Shall We Dance or Footlight Parade. But it's still pretty awesome.

    4. Babes in Arms sounds like something I would enjoy too!

      I felt exactly the same way about La La Land and Moonlight (I saw La La Land three times at the cinema); loved both for very different reasons, but I think the Academy made the right choice (considering awards are gumpf anyway - really, how can you judge films from different genres against each other?)