Moonlight Review: An Oscar-Worthy Dose Of Reality

For a film with a main character that says very little, Moonlight says a lot.

Mahershala Ali and Alex Hibbert in Moonlight Image Photo by David Bornfriend

Moonlight
111 minutes (15)
★★★★★

Every once in a while, there is a film out there that captures reality in the roughest way, and this year, that movie is Moonlight.

While the nostalgic musical La La Land attempts to give its audience a door to escapism, Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, offers a vision of the life of a boy in the most realistic way, with hopes crushed, wounds unhealed and unresolved problems.

Janelle Monáe as Teresa in Moonlight Image Photo by David Bornfriend

Moonlight is a story told in three acts (it is, after all, based on a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney), and it follows the early life of Chiron when he is a child, a teenager, and a man in his early twenties, with outstanding performances by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes as Chiron.

The first part, in which Chiron is referred to as Little, shows a taciturn boy who lives with his drug addict mother in what is not the best family environment. Chased after by boys from school who call him bad names because he is ‘weak,’ Little ends up meeting Juan (Mahershala Ali) and Teresa (Janelle Monáe), who will act as surrogate parents for the troubled boy.

In the second part, Chiron’s life gets harder as the bullying intensifies, but it isn’t until he finally has his first homosexual experience that his life reaches a turning point by discovering repressed feelings. Chiron, who barely lets anyone touch him throughout the film, allows himself to trust his friend who will in turn betray him.

Naomie Harris, nominated for an Oscar for her role in Moonlight Image Photo by David Bornfriend

Cue to an older Chiron who now goes as Black. That scared, taciturn kid eventually grows into a hardened man who has shut down his emotions from the world, ending this three-part piece with the same harshness it began.

Besides the three main actors, who portray Chiron with a harrowing level of sadness, the performances in Moonlight are top-notch. Mahershala Ali plays a minuscule but pivotal role that will most certainly earn him his first Oscar, and Naomie Harris is awe-inspiring as Chiron’s drug addict mother, a role she filmed in just three days, as director Jenkins revealed during a Q&A of the film in London.

This is not just an outstanding film. It is a masterpiece that, at first, doesn’t seem like the kind of film that would get enough funding to make it all the way to the Oscars, especially with such a plot. Luckily for Jenkins, Brad Pitt and his film production company Plan B loved his idea and gave him creative freedom do what he wanted with the movie.

Moonlight is a heartrending story, full of sadness and despair. But it is as close to life as it gets, and it is exactly the type of movie that should be crowned at the Oscars this year.

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