Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Ashton Sanders, Naomi Harris
Length: 1hr 51m
Barry Jenkins’ latest film Moonlight is an artistic triumph, tackling the modern day ideals of black masculinity in a powerful, yet moving cinematic force, making it well deserving of its recent oscar win.
I would go so far as to say this is the best film that has been made in the last 10 years (surpassing Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Colour and Lee Daniels’ Precious). Moonlight is a tour de force. The film is essentially a coming-of-age story, following the life of Chiron, fragmented into three sequential chapters of his life (named after his nicknames) as he grows from being the young ‘Little’ (Alex R. Hibbert), to the troubled adolescent ‘Chiron’ (Ashton Sanders), finally ending as the fully formed ‘Black’ (Trevante Rhodes). We follow Chiron in a moving, powerful tale as he must battle bullies, a broken home, and ultimately face his identity.
Though Mahershala Ali was the only actor from Moonlight to come away with an Oscar (playing the father-figure mentor of young Chiron), the film is consistently riddled with dazzling performances – Naomi Harris dominates the film. Playing a desperate drug crack addict who neglects her son, Chiron, Harris excels in portraying her character’s harrowing descent into drug addiction with immense fervour. Her exceptional performance should be met with even more appreciation considering that she only had three days to film. Moreover, the three actors playing Chiron at various chapters in his life do so with such delicacy, emulating subtle similarities in each other’s facial expressions, thus cementing the audience’s engagement with Chiron as a fully formed character across his 20-odd year narrative. Ashton Sanders’ performance is totally fearless, exposing Chiron’s vulnerability before he takes vengeance upon his school bullies which proves to be a pivotal moment in the film, proving to be the catalyst for Chiron’s regression into a life of drug-dealing he dreamed never to be a part of.
One of the most captivating elements of the film is its delicate tone, a shocking contrast to the harsh backdrop of the rough Miami neighbourhood in which the majority of the film is set. The serene, hazy blue tone reflects the haunting haziness of Chiron’s identity as a gay man, and his vulnerability that comes with it. The film’s soundtrack is utterly mesmerising – with an original score by Nicholas Britell – the intense orchestral tracks capture the fierceness that surrounds Chiron and the world around him, and merge with the visuals harmoniously, particularly the recurring haunting visuals of the waves on a Miami beach in the moonlight.
Overall, Barry Jenkins’ second feature film Moonlight is a moving experience, providing a sensitive yet impactful narrative to be seen by audiences everywhere. Since stories of LGBTQ people of colour have been ignored throughout film, this film is of vital importance, acting as a pivotal force to expand to more inclusive narratives, particularly in Hollywood, making its triumph at the Oscars exceptionally deserved.