Movie Review: ‘Moonlight’


Director: Barry Jenkins

Cast: Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert, André Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Jaden Piner, Janelle Monáe, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali

Plot: Moonlight follows the life of quiet, shy Chiron at three key points in his life, starting with his childhood, then his teen years and finally as a adult. Growing up in a poor region of Miami his life is shaped by drug use, abuse, violence and homophobia. 

Review: I’d like to think I’m into all the cool indie film-makers, but I haven’t seen anything by Barry Jenkins. This is surprising because Moonlight, which Jenkins wrote and directed, has some amazing direction and cinematography. The camera work is largely unconventional but always well thought out and thought provoking. Some techniques would be outright awkward in the hands of some directors yet Jenkins makes it work. For example, there are some very, very close ups on performers faces, something Shyamalan does frequently to very poor effect, while this movie makes it work.

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It’s also a very patient film. Dialogue isn’t rushed, and they let the silences stretch out to emphasise the emotions being experienced by the characters. This is ideal for the story, as it is very much a character piece. It’s entirely about the experiences of Chiron as he learns about the world, comes to terms with his place in it and ultimately tries to reinvent himself. There’s plenty that doesn’t get said, such as one major character disappearing during a jump forward in time, leaving their character arc unfinished. It may have felt sloppy or frustrating but it works in service of Chiron’s character. 

The cast list may look long, but the first six actors listed are all playing the two main characters. Everyone is brilliant, especially the younger actors. The director must have spent an immense amount of time working with them to get these amazing performances. Plenty of new talent to watch here.

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This isn’t a cheerful film, nor does it have a heavy message or big climax. It’s slow and intense and looks a treat.

Rating: NINE out of TEN

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