REVIEW: Moonlight

Okay okay okay, let’s talk about Moonlight. I know it’s been slow for the content on here but sometimes it takes a certain kind of film to make me drop whatever I’m doing in life and sit down to write about it. Moonlight is that film.  As a member of the black diaspora in America, the essential question of Moonlight is one that hits home: Who are you? or to quote from the film, “who is you?”. Who am I is an ever-present query we pose to ourselves. So often confronted with images and other peoples ideas of who we are that, the idea of cultivating our own sense of self is seemingly ever elusive. Moonlight follows Chiron, a young boy growing up in Miami in the war-on-drugs era, his mother is addicted to crack, and he’s grappling with questions of his sexuality that his surroundings leave him little time to ponder.

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Barry Jenkin’s takes all the factors and creates a character so real and fleshed out that it makes Boyhood look cute. This may be a hot-take, but plenty of black people, after seeing Boyhood, thought that boy was so lucky to be able to ponder such existential questions about his life! Don’t get me wrong, the Boyhood kid had it rough, but he never had to live in the ghetto, and his mother – for all her bad decisions – never abused drugs. But for all this talk about drugs and the ghetto, Barry Jenkins shows us that while the grit and dirt of the ghetto leaves little time to ponder one’s emotional turmoil, beauty and love can still be found there.

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Beauty is found everywhere in Moonlight. Jenkins films the ghettos, the boarded up houses, the addicts, the needles, and the people that exist in this environment, with great care and a softness that can make it all seem pleasant to look at. And though we know there is nothing pleasant about it, we must deal with the images on the screen as they are. James Laxton, the Cinematographer on the film, is to credit for the stunning camerawork in the film. The camera is the film’s most powerful tool; it’s used to make you feel everything in the most visceral of ways, from the disorientation of a drug addict in need of a fix, the unsteadiness of open water when learning to swim, or the nerves of one’s first sexual experience.

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It is hard to say which factor of Moonlight shines the brightest: the cast (Mahershala Ali is brilliant, Naomie Harris needs no introduction), the score, the cinematography, and the direction are all doing their respective duties to the best of their abilities. But nothing distracts and everything works together quite beautifully. The film is a quilt, being stitched across space and time, across the entirety of Chiron’s life, and the viewer-to-character to connection is one that every film strives for, but few achieve.

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