Logline: A chronicle of a young black man’s life from childhood to adulthood as he grows up in a rough Miami neighborhood and struggles with his own sexual identity.
Barry Jenkins’ sophomore film Moonlight is a masterpiece and one of the best films of the year. It is a rare film about a gay black man. However, the film is not exclusively about being gay and black in a poor neighborhood. On a deeper level, the film is about the universal struggle to find human connection and realize our true selves.
Moonlight is based on Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s semi-autobiographical play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” The film is heartbreaking yet life-affirming; epic yet intimate. At its core, Moonlight is a character study with three actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) playing Chiron as a child, teenager, and adult. All three actors are phenomenal as is the rest of the cast. One standout is Naomi Harris as Chiron’s drug-addicted mother Paula. Moonlight is incredibly cinematic in the way in which it uses sight and sound to tell its story. The film is visually stunning with gorgeous cinematography from James Laxton. The score by Nicolas Britell is remarkable. I was also impressed by the film’s use of silence, an element that most modern filmmakers seem to fear. Chiron’s sexuality is not overstated and therein lies one of the film’s greatest achievements. Facial expressions and glances inform us of the deep feelings beneath Chiron’s exterior. Gritty and realistic, the film is full of raw human emotion.
Rarely do movie studios get behind films of this nature because they are not considered profitable. Moonlight has received universal acclaim and for good reason. If you see only one film this year, make it Moonlight. Mesmerizing and ethereal, Moonlight is an important film in both black and LGBT cinema. As a young gay man, I found many aspects of Chiron’s story relatable and the film made me reflect on some of my own experiences growing up. However, the personal narrative that drives the film is universal and timeless. The film is about human identity, something to which everyone can relate.
Rating (out of ****): ****