Movie Name: Moonlight
Release Date(s): September 2, 2016 (Telluride Film Festival)/October 21, 2016 (US)
MPAA Rating: R
Chiron aka Little (Alex Hibbert) has always been different than the other kids and a subject of their abuse. When he is befriended by a drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae), Chiron finds an escape from home and his mother (Naomie Harris) who has a drug addiction. As Chiron (Ashton Sanders) ages, he finds being a teenager who is gay in neighborhood is dangerous…leading to life as an adult (Trevante Rhodes) that doesn’t seem to resemble the kid he was.
Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is a drama based on Jenkins’ play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The film won an Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Ali) and Best Adapted Screenplay. Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Harris), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and Best Original Score. The Best Picture announcement was met with surprise after La La Land was initially declared the winner.
Moonlight is a tough picture. It is the type of movie that might not be incredibly plot driven, but it is driven by a story that makes you think with a fantastic cast.
The story isn’t for everyone because it is more of a slice of life than a complete tale. It is about a person not only coming to terms with himself, but it is also about how when you see a story about a mother on drugs, a kid who acts violently at school, or a drug dealer that all of those people have a story…and they might be “doing bad”, but there is a story on how they got to that situation. They didn’t set out to have a damaged life. The movie in its own way plays out a bit like the film Boyhood…but a very different childhood.
The stars really do a great job giving life to the characters. Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, and Alex Hibbert bring life to Little/Chiron/Black and make him a real character that is identifiable to a broad audience despite the fact that many of the people seeing Moonlight have never lived like Chiron lived. Chiron is backed by three adults who provide different support. Mahershala Ali is good as the only man in Chiron’s life who has guilt over feeding his mother’s addiction but also isn’t judgmental about Chiron’s budding sexuality. Naomie Harris didn’t initially want to play a junkie because it was a stereotype but gives one of her best performances as a mother struggling with her addiction and son. Janelle Monae is the motherly factor in Chiron’s life and a nice balance to Harris. Chiron’s friend/love interest is the clean-cut Kevin (played by Jaden Piner/Jharrel Jerome/Andre Holland) and shows that everyone from Chrion’s neighborhood faces struggles.
The movie looks great. The visuals are clean and crisp. Despite the sadness surrounding Chiron, he lives in a great world with the beauty of the ocean. It has a timelessness to the movie and you can’t tell when it is set with people more about survival than the latest technology.
Moonlight is a good, subtle movie. It is a characters study that blurs the lines between right and wrong and can show how pressure, fear, and hate can shape a person. I could see a sequel to Moonlight down the line. Chiron is a character that you want to find out what happens to him. This is probably the challenge of the movie for many, it doesn’t end with a nice meet-cute…it is hard and challenging, but it does leave you with hope for the characters.