Moonlight

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Moonlight

The tough childhood of a poor Miami kid is the subject of Barry Jenkins's powerful and moving indie portrait of African-American life

The first miracle of Barry Jenkins’s exquisite coming-of-age drama ‘Moonlight’ – and this heartbreaker of a film is filled with miracles – happens around a kitchen table. We’ve already seen quiet, sullen Chiron (Alex Hibbert), a 10-year-old with frightened eyes, being chased by bullies. The two adults sitting around the table aren’t his parents (one of them is actually the drug dealer selling crack to Chiron’s addict mum), but somehow they know the exact words to say when the boy softly asks them, ‘Am I a faggot?’

Jenkins, an indie director whose first feature, ‘Medicine for Melancholy’ (2008), delved into a whole universe of African-American issues rarely explored onscreen, now goes even further, and with an uncommonly poetic voice. The barely-getting-by Miami of ‘Moonlight’ – a place of needle-strewn drug dens and cheapo diners – bears little resemblance to the one we usually see in the movies. But the film is more radical for articulating an internal sexual turbulence that doesn’t fit the stereotype. It’s not the one laid down by ‘Brokeback Mountain’ or other key gay stories but something new, seething with anxiety, similar to the vibe you feel in the tense, ticking beats of Frank Ocean.

Chiron grows into a pinch-faced, haunted teenager (Ashton Sanders), the second portrayal of the character, who is played by three actors in the film. (Trevante Rhodes’s muscle-bound adult Chiron, hiding his pain behind a scary facade, is yet to come.) The script is based on Tarell McCraney’s autobiographical play ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue’, but Jenkins throws off the constraints of the stage: at one point, the camera swirls with a bully who circles like a shark. It’s a frightening spiral that suggests cycles with no end.

As for the final passage – a decade later, with Chiron in the company of an old friend (André Holland), a romantic song playing on the jukebox – there’s no sequence this year that matches it. This film is, without a doubt, the reason we go to the movies.

By: Joshua Rothkopf

Posted:

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday February 17 2017
Duration: 110 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Barry Jenkins
Screenwriter: Barry Jenkins
Cast: Alex R. Hibbert
Ashton Sanders
Trevante Rhodes
Naomie Harris
Andre Holland

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LiveReviews|22
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Vieve W
Tastemaker

I absolutely loved this film.

This coming of age tale had me smiling, sobbing, laughing and simmering in anger. I felt nothing but empathy, sympathy and love for Chiron: the main character who went through inner turmoil because of his sexuality.

Out of all three versions of Chiron, I don't think I could choose a favourite. they were equally as mesmerising. But I definitely appreciated Adult Chiron body! Buff buff buff!

A great film that I didn't want to end. Wonderful to see the main characters of a film who were black and happened to be gay.

Marco D
tastemaker

An experience to see and a huge eye opener to life and to so many people out there. Life has modified and moved in ways that we can't possibly imagine. Moonlight definitely captured and delivered the intensity of what it's like growing up in urban areas filled with drug dealers, bullies and dangerous people. Believe it or not, that's life and this is what's happening in our world right know.

Moonlight is based in Miami and it follows the painful, distressing life of Chiron. The film displays the life of Chiron in three parts.

He lives in an area where the conditions aren't the best, but has the support of his community. This helped him become a man and have the kindness that he demonstrates in the film. He unfortunately had to grow up very quickly.

The main bulk of Chiron's story in the film is his teenage to young adulthood life. Life is complicated and Chiron (Ashton Sanders) had to fight along the way. He was constantly being bullied at school and his mother Paula (Naomie Harris) wasn't much of an example to follow in his life.

He was under the careful watch of Juan (Mahershala Ali) and Teresa (Janelle Monáe) who were truly phenomenal with him.

Monáe is divine and her character is truly down to earth. I'm a huge fan and I feel with every role she takes on, she delivers beautifully. Extremely authentic in her work.

Growing up and figuring out where you stand in society or in a community is very difficult. His name fits perfectly within the storyline of the film. In Greek mythology Chiron is known as the Wounded Healer. I feel it encases who he is in this film.

As he tries to go forwards wounded, he will eventually be healed and face anything in his path.

His sexuality was also a big talking point in the storyline. The neighbourhood was rough. He knew deep down the feelings he had for Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) was clear in his mind.

It was something quite beautiful to see.

This is real life shown with such a pure, raw clarity of an emotional journey.

There were parts that didn't quite clear my mind towards the end, slightly rushed.

There must of been more to him than drug dealing. I guess that's the obscurity of the story.

#TOTastemaker

Love MD.

VanessaK
tastemaker

Worth watching and worth the oscar!! Surprising topic that hasn't been discussed so much, really enjoyed it!

Luisa G
Tastemaker

With no storyline as such, this film was sensitively tackled, and was very moving. Worthy of its awards. 

Sara A
tastemaker

I didn’t really know what to expect with Moonlight, other than a really brief outline of the subject and that Oscar mix up. It’s a slow mover, and not much actually ‘happens’ during the film but the character study following Chiron through the three stages of his life to adulthood is powerful. The film explores an entanglement of themes – homosexuality, race issues, drugs – in a subtle but powerful way. It’s not something I would want to sit through again as it’s quite a tough watch but it is definitely worth watching it once.

Chelsbun
tastemaker

I saw this film a few weeks ago and I'm still not sure if I enjoyed it or not. It is slow film, it doesn't rush, it gives you a clear almost uncomfortable understanding into someone's struggles. I feel like the overall message of not accepting yourself based on your upbringing can be translated into any situation. It focuses on stereotypes and homosexuality. 


There is no doubt that this film is powerful and that people should watch it to open their minds. I just don't think I could watch it again. 

Diana G
tastemaker

A slow, sensitive study of a small piece of human nature. This is not a film for those who need pace and action. Chiron is born into a poverty drug-riddled home in Miami. His mother is an addict and he hates her. We see him at three stages in his life, aged approximately ten when he asks some newly-found adult companions what 'faggot' means. We see him about six years later having his first sexual experience with a male friend and we finally see him over ten years later when his friend unexpectedly calls him to renew aquaintences. Chiron is black and gay. He must discover himself and understand the attitudes of those around him. Not easy.

Jboyle14
tastemaker

The story is set across three key periods of a young, gay, black man's life growing up in a broken home in southern America. Three separate actors play Chiron across the time periods and with remarkably little dialogue bind you to his story. It's an incredibly well-shot film and Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris are particularly excellent in supporting roles. It's a moving, thought-provoking story that definitely earned it's Best Picture Oscar.

T. W.
tastemaker

When I was a wee lad I went into the cinema to watch Smurfs, this was a while ago... but I walked into the wrong screen and ended up watching Captain Kremmen which was a Kenny Everett animated film! Possibly a better choice... anyway my point, I walked out of this film wondering if I'd done the same thing again... surely the tedious film I'd just sat through wasn't rated as the best film of the year? No, I must have sat in the wrong screen! But no... I hadn't, it was Moonlight I'd just watched.


The budget was $1.5M but sadly they didn't really spend much of that on scriptwriters. The acting was powerful, that I won't deny, but the lead character's silence was all too annoying at times and it meant you walked out at the end knowing all too little about him, his backstory, his experiences and what was driving him. 


The film jumped roughly 10 years twice, and there was no real attempt to fill in much that happened during those missing years. When he jumped into adulthood we had left him being led off in a police car and well there was little exposition that ever attempted to explain those pivotal years between being an innocent teen and a mature, practiced, drug dealer... 


These big leaps couldn't help but pull you out of the film, you had to stop and re-focus, to readjust to a new actor, a new era and a new environment which you knew nothing about and really a completely new character that had undergone much change but change that you could only but guess at... 


Best supporting actor? Really? He was good, but he was only in Act 1 and was by no means great. 


Okay... I really do hate to say it but I think this is more about the Oscars reacting to last year's protests than the film's quality. 


I was left puzzled and disappointed... and the cinematography really was a tad frenetic and contrived at points... did we really need to be made dizzy by all those steady cam 'spinning' shots? It achieved nothing visually or emotionally, it was not relevant to the texture of the film or the tone of the scene... there was nothing added to the tension or the interplay of the characters... it was purely stunt camerawork and a technique the DOP should have shrugged off at film school. 

Chris
Tastemaker

A worthy winner of the Best Picture Oscar, this is a twist on the classic coming-of-age story with excellent acting, a stunning soundtrack and brilliant visuals. It stayed with me long after seeing it in the cinema.

Jonnyboy
tastemaker

This is a film that has needed to be told for a long time. A film in three acts, it literally tells you this. It spans the youth, adolescence and young adult life of Chiron, a boy growing up in Miami who realises from an early age that he is gay. The part are played by three different actors and they each bring their own individual identity to the character. I was most impressed with the eldest of the three, played by Trevante Rhodes, who although had the shell of a hard nut and had experienced a life many of us will never know, he lets himself have such vulnerability. His emotional depth is impressive.

The cinematography is beautifully, using blues, indigos and purples shows off not only the surroundings but lights the actors so well it sometimes almost looks like the film is set in another world!

A film I would definitely see again, 5/5!

Sarah J
tastemaker

Although this film was very artistic and captured the hard truth in soft and evocative way, it wasn't what I was expecting and if anything the storyline seemed quite simplistic at times. Moonlight definitely offered a brand new perspective on issues that had been previously tackled, and the irony and contrasts to commonly assumed stereotypes was handled in a very clever and interesting manner. But I don't think this film is for everyone.

Photosbysooz
Tastemaker

Moonlight is gentle, sometimes subtle and at other, much less often, times, hard-hitting and in your face. The film explores how a sweet child is hurt by poverty and drugs, how kindness and decency are not always black and white (as shown with his fatherly relationship with a drug dealer named Juan) and how one can so easily slip into the dark side, but can also be saved by love.


Played out with incredible acting, soft, gentle and atmospheric cinematography and wonderful score, Moonlight enfolds you in it's story and has you gripped, watching Chiron, as if from above, to see how he fairs, how he survives and whether or not he'll be 'saved'. 


The story is a simple one really and by no means particularly new or original - drugs, poverty, homophobia - they've all been tackled in movies before. But Moonlight offers something new in its powerful and clever non-judgemental approach, with its no holds barred, almost voyeuristic, coming of age tale. As I write, Moonlight has now won Best Picture at The Oscars, which says it all really - a well deserved win.

Jeremy V

This film shines a light on an area of life that most of us just don't see.  But the underlying theme is universal: attachment, love and "who do you trust?"  It is well acted and on the whole well directed.  The child, Chiron, is particularly powerfully portrayed.  Naomie Harris is an amazing actress and deserves recognition.

I like films that give you space to work things out for yourself but there is a moment in this film where a brief explanation would have helped: the adolescent Chiron to the adult Chiron.  Where has he been and what has happened to him?  It was the only hiccup in an otherwise fine film. 

jeaniekarl
Tastemaker

I saw this film as part of the odeon screen unseen. I must admit this not something I would normally opt to watch but that’s the beauty of screen unseen and I’m glad I did. Moonlight is a poignant and heartfelt coming of age film focusing on Chiron as the central character here. The viewer really feels for him as the film chronicles his life from a young boy to adulthood where you see him progress as a shy and reserved boy battling his inner demons to a teen coming to terms with his suppressed sexuality. Whilst also having to cope with the turmoil at home with his mother who emotionally and physically abuses him as a drug addict nurse (excellently played by Naomie Harris) and enduring bullying at school. Harrowing and emotional at times this is cleverly divided into three chapters of Chiron’s life. There are loving tender touching final scenes when Chiron and Kevin reunite and its revealed what truly lies behind Chiron’s new founded tough exterior as an adult as he comes to terms with his true emotions.

 

JK

Lyrical and poetic - it builds slowly and gently until by the end I was almost in tears. The choice of music is perfect at every moment. By the way - this movie is not about sexuality or being gay in any way - it's about falling in love. An absolute must see. 

Sarah G
Tastemaker

How good and how beautiful is this film?


The story is a pretty common one at the moment. In lots of ways it reminded me of American Honey. People born into and trapped in unreal poverty. Living as part of an underclass where the rules of society seem so far away - yet there is a moral code and real examination of conscience. Marry that with a fantastic all black cast and the variety of settings in the film and it a great starting recipe. 


The soundtrack is particularly striking in its variety and how evocative it is.


The construction of the film through  variety of ages of a single person is very well done. It treats the audience with a huge amount of respect - expecting intelligence and not providing lots of linking and explanation - it is for you work out what has happened to all the characters in the intervening times.


The degree of empathy, sympathy and emotion I felt for the main character - coming to terms with his sexual orientation, with the social conflict and the struggle in his feelings for his mother was huge. The film is moving without being sentimental. It is real and gritty without being sensationalist or gratuitously violent. It is both a coming of age movie and a polemic on poverty.


It is really worth watching and I would encourage people to go.

John C
tastemaker

A film to catch. It combines a story of underprivileged, with a sparkling burst of colour with a great soundtrack.It tackles drug abuse, bullying, and coming to terms (or not) with being gay.

It is a special & totally original piece, with a great cast who totally ring true.  

Reelreviewer

Moonlight works well because it confronts, confounds and confuses (in a good way!) your preconceptions of life on the crack-addled mean streets. There is positivity in this tale of a young boy growing up to become a man after being given a friendly hand by a nice drug dealer, with a clutch of raw and impressive performances. My review for more: http://bit.ly/filmmoonlight 

AJCroasdale
tastemaker

Moonlight tells the story of man: his childhood as 'Little', with a mother addicted to drugs, bullied for his sexuality, and living in poverty; his youth, as Chiron, awkward, bloodied, but unbroken; his manhood, as 'Black', unable to escape the social circumstances that bred him, but increasingly finding peace in his identity. And through this search for identity, director Barry Jenkins has delivered something extraordinary, pure, and beautiful.


Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert, the three actors charting the coming-of-age of Chiron, each bring a deep and painful grace to the role. The quality of acting is exquisite all round, in fact, with some stand out supporting performances from Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris. The aesthetic is also elegantly achieved, with some truly beautiful cinematography, and a subtle but powerful soundtrack.


This film has garnered critical acclaim with good reason: it is a real 'must-see.' The timely and unpatronising nature of what Jenkins has achieved with Moonlight gives hope at a time where cultural and social diversity appear to be under threat. A glorious film.

Natasha Tooray
0 of 1 found helpful
Tastemaker

I went into the cinema knowing very little about this (as recommended to by a friend). The storyline was so captivating, throughout what could be 1 hour or 3 hours I was completely hooked. Such a fantastic portrayal of a life, which gripped me and took me on the emotional journey with it. The main character was relatable and acted out so well. 


The soundtrack and use of was the main distinguishing factor for me: the mix of orchestral pieces, urban and swing era was used so effectively.


Such a moving movie, that completely deserves the Best Picture Oscar and hype around it.

Danilo Reis
0 of 1 found helpful
tastemaker

A very contemporary, visually stunning film. The pretentious screenplay is executed faultlessly and the poetic narrative emotionally bonds the viewer with the narrative. The mixture of genres in the plot echoes with real life and makes the film very original. Definitely deserving of the best picture award at this year's Oscars.