Moonlight is directed by Barry Jenkins, and is the story of Chiron, an African-American boy who grows up in Miami. The film follows his life through three decades. We meet Chiron as a child, and proceed to catch up with him again as a teenager and then as an adult. I have been looking forward to seeing this movie for a while, and I am happy to say that it didn’t disappoint.
First off, Barry Jenkins does a masterful job of directing this film. Every shot is framed extremely well, and not a single shot feels wasted. I wouldn’t be completely shocked if Jenkins wins the best director Oscar. I still think it will go to Chazelle, but Jenkins is definitely worthy of it for what he did here.
The best part about this film for me is the performances. Every single character is played to perfection in my opinion. All three of the actors that play Chiron throughout his life bring something distinct to their portrayal of the character at that specific point in his life. Ashton Sanders, who plays Chiron in his teenage years, is probably my favorite of the three actors who portray him. I feel like he is given the most to do out of the three, and he just crushes it. As far as supporting performances go, pretty much everyone is great. Mahershala Ali is superb as Juan, the kind hearted drug dealer who takes a special interest in Chiron as a child after finding him hiding in a drug den. Ali is the odds on favorite to win the Oscar in the best supporting actor category, and for good reason. Naomie Harris plays Chiron’s mother, Paula, a drug addict who has a strained relationship with her son throughout the film. Her performance is one of my favorites in the movie, and I think she definitely deserves to win the Oscar in her category. Janelle Monae was also very solid as Juan’s girlfriend.
The themes in Moonlight are very personal, and the emotion brought to the screen by all of the actors in this film really help to make the movie as touching as it is. The film is based off of an unproduced play written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote the play based off of his own experiences growing up. It is hard for me to go really in depth with a lot of the plot points and more emotional and impactful moments in the film without spoiling things. However, suffice to say that some of the things that Chiron deals with while growing up, including bullying and just coming to terms with who he is, are things that almost everyone can relate to. Not everything he deals with in the film will be relatable to everyone, but the underlying themes are common enough to where everyone should be able to get something from it.
I highly recommend this movie to everyone. I won’t say it’s a movie that I love or that I will go back to over and over again, but it is a very good movie with great performances. Moonlight is a deeply emotional film that should be able to reach almost everyone on some level, and may genuinely be able to deeply affect some people who relate to the film on a deeper level. If you love films, see this movie. Even if you don’t fall in love with it, you will still be able to appreciate that it is a very well made movie with great performances.