Weekly Review: Moonlight (2016)

Sexuality. Identity. Masculinity. Young Chiron navigates the world around him as he approaches adulthood.

Separated into three distinct chapters, Moonlight is the coming of age story of Chiron, a young man growing up in Miami. While the coming of age story isn’t a new thing in film, Moonlight manages to do it with a twist. The chapters within this film tackle some pretty important topics that usually aren’t covered enough, and I really do feel that stories like this should be told more.

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Themes in Moonlight extend across the aspects of general identity, masculinity, and sexuality. All of these themes are further amplified by the film’s focus on Chiron’s experience as a young black man. To do this, the film sets up stereotypes in order to shatter them and make you reflect. It’s the juxtaposition of strength and fragility. It’s both rough and tender at the same time. All of these factors come together to make Moonlight a pretty compelling story, certainly one that we aren’t often given the chance to see.

Moonlight features the performances of veteran actors Mahershala Ali (finally receiving an Oscar!) and Naomi Harris (also nominated for an Oscar as a supporting character). Janelle Monae and André Holland put up some good performances as well.

While all three actors who portray Chiron do so very well, I really have to take a moment to commend the actor who portrayed the character in the third and final chapter, Trevante Rhodes. As adult Chiron, Rhodes perfectly switches between the adult persona and the child that we’ve seen grow up. Rhodes was able to bring out the same mannerisms that the child actor, Alex Hibbert, conveyed. In doing so, he elicited the same emotions from me. Rhodes’ performance at the end of the film really topped everything off.

Overall, in terms of story, I really enjoyed Moonlight. While I’m not typically a fan of the coming of age story, I just felt that this film was done very poetically. When the credits began to roll, I was actually upset to see it end. I could have happily watched more of how this story unfolded. By saying this, I don’t mean it negatively. The film ends just as poetically as the rest of its duration would require. It’s very fitting. By the end of the film, I was just so invested in the character that I was sad to say goodbye.

Other than the story, I was also impressed by the editing and camera work throughout Moonlight. The majority of the film utilizes camera work that either is handheld or evokes the feeling of being handheld. If done wrong, this can make a film seem unnecessarily chaotic. In the case of this film, the camera work managed to make every scene seem personal, as if you were there, as if you were a part of these private moments.

Moonlight was awarded Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2017. I haven’t seen many of the other contenders in that category for the year, but I am pleasantly surprised that Moonlight won. It most definitely deserves it. Moonlight pushes the boundaries of what filmgoers have come to expect, and I thought it did so masterfully.

You can view the trailer for Moonlight below.

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