Director Barry Jenkins has been making a great deal of waves with his sophomore effort, “Moonlight,” a journey through the eyes of one person as life takes a hold on him and molds him in ways he never imagined. After winning “Best Picture – Drama” at the Golden Globe Awards, the expectations for “Moonlight” have grown, and for the most part, the film goes above and beyond.
“Moonlight” follows the story of Chiron (Alex Hibbert – Child, Ashton Sanders – Teen, Trevante Rhodes – Adult) as he navigates through his life with the help of a few role models over the course of two decades. Unfortunately that entails his fractured relationship with his mother, Paula (Naomie Harris), who falls under the influence of “crack” over the years.
His main role model early in life is actually charismatic drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), who attempts to convince him that he is in control of how his life turns out, with his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae) helping him in this effort. On top of all of this, Chiron begins to question his sexual orientation, especially in the company of childhood friend Kevin (Jaden Piner – Child, Jharrel Jermone – Teen, Andre Holland – Adult) as they grow closer over the years. In the end, Chiron has to decide what is best for himself on his own.
To lay all the positives on the table, all performances of the two main characters of Chiron and Kevin are fantastic, with Chiron’s different actors giving the characters depth and plenty of dimension, but the standouts are both Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris as Chiron’s morally gray role models.
Despite his short time in the film, Ali makes a great impression as he teaches the younger Chiron what he must seek out in life and to look for the positives. The cinematography is both stylish and gritty at the same time and overall, Jenkins has directed the film well.
However, one problem with the film is the seeming lack of focus as it moves through the three different stages of Chiron’s life. It sometimes feels like the film continues on to the next chapter of the story without providing a conclusion to the first, and the true conclusion may seem weak, leaving many conflicts unresolved. Still, the emotional core was strong, mainly because of Chiron’s relationships with Kevin and his mother, something that can make up for the films other shortcomings.
In the end, the film is well-made, with standout performances and direction, but it does lack focus and have a sense of apathy at times. Yet, the emotional force of the story—of Chiron’s tragic life—as well as Jenkin’s screenplay and direction, is enough for the film to deserve most of the recognition and acclaim it has been given.
Directed by: Barry Jenkins
Release Date: October 21, 2016
Rating: 4 out of 5