Moonlight is a wonderfully absorbing character study from Barry Jenkins. The film is a profusion of taut emotion, which bubbles over in a delectable way.
Chiron is a young boy growing up in a tough Miami neighbourhood. As a teenager, he is isolated from his peers. As a man, he struggles to deal with his feelings and the perception of who he should be…
Director and screenwriter Barry Jenkins has created something special with Moonlight. Based on Tarell McCraney’s play, the film is a coming of age story from a fresh perspective. The film is important because it depicts the type of protagonist not often seen in mainstream cinema.
Moonlight is a three-part production, taking place in different eras of the protagonist’s life. It is the story of a boy becoming a man in a less than perfect environment. The film combines two major aspects; black masculinity and homosexuality. As such, the protagonist faces lengthy struggle in trying to live up to expectations of what a black male in Miami should be, whilst internalising romantic feelings which contradict these expectations.
Characters in the film are drawn in a natural and engaging fashion. Moonlight charts Chiron’s journey, and the character is depicted in a empathetic way. Similarly, the supporting characters are portrayed with enough depth. The relationship between Chiron and Kevin is lovingly depicted. There is an emotional vein than runs throughout the film. Viewers will sympathise and root for the protagonist as he tries to defy the odds.
Jenkins’ direction is strong throughout. He shoots the film with an appealing energy. This is clear from the frenetic camera movement at the beginning. James Laxton’s cinematography in the film is excellent; composition and colour are used in a potent manner. Casting in the film is also wonderful. Ashton Sanders is great as the teenaged Chiron, as are Alex Hibbert and Trevante Rhodes as the child and adult protagonist, respectively. Mahershala Ali, Jenelle Monae, and Naomie Harris provide good support.
In a different pair of hands, the film could have been a trite concoction of stereotypes and cliché. Jenkins shows he is a force to be reckoned with with the magnificent Moonlight.
Moonlight is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.