“Moonlight” Review ✦✦✦✦✦

31 January, 2017

Director: Barry Jenkins
Screenwriter: Barry Jenkins
Director of Photography: James Laxton
Cast: Mahershala Ali, Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris

Synopsis: A tale of self-discovery told in three chapters, Moonlight sees a boy wrestling with his sexuality while dealing with the pain and torment inflicted by his emotionally abusive mother.

Moonlight Review:

A compelling coming-of-age story about one man’s struggle to simply exist in the world he was born into, “Moonlight” is delivered by a relatively unknown cast and it snaps into focus through the perspective of a trio of up-and-coming performers, each of whom come to embody the different stages in the life of an impoverished African American youth. Adorned with separate names and played by different actors, the concept alone is a marvel of cinematic continuity as Barry Jenkins threads such an unbreakable emotional strand through his one protagonist that each performer effortlessly fills the shoes worn by his forerunner, making physical appearance irrelevant in a movie that’s all about the soul within the body.

“Moonlight” is a hypnotising movie with a pensive insight, unlocking the door to the melancholic world of a boy born with the odds stacked against him. This isn’t “Boyz N the Hood” or “Menace II Society,” it’s a triumphant artistic vision with a tenable perspective on what it means to be human in a place where you can only be an outcast. While addiction, abuse, and abandonment fuel the narrative, they are never at the forefront of Jenkins’ line of view as he glances in the direction of Black America but cannot bear to show us the true suffering beyond the boundaries of his limited perspective.

Leaving viewers to assemble the truth behind a string of elliptical segments, “Moonlight” is symptomatic and suggestive in its presentation of dysfunctional families on the path towards criminality. It also offers a rather triumphant portrayal of the soul-searching that comes with figuring out one’s sexuality, turning the film into the much-needed companion piece to go with Abdellatif Kechiche’s “Blue is the Warmest Colour.” Adapted from a play titled “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” the two movies are united not only in their reference to a symbolic primary colour but also in their striking ability to exist without dividing audiences on a conscious political level as viewers are given room to breathe while they figure out the story through character alone.

“Moonlight” addresses important topics but never exploits them, making its social surroundings feel merely incidental within a much grander exploration of reality. If anything, the movie is simply about growing up and surviving under the grasp on an endless cycle of tragedy that anyone who has lived for more than a day can relate to. Made to feel Malickesque in reflective moments, the film ponders over the passage of time under the shifting weight of its soundtrack as haunting memories ground Jenkins’ artistry in a tale that’s both heart-breaking and life-affirming.


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