‘Moonlight’: Best Film Of The Year? | Film Review
“The whole point of making it was for people who might’ve grown up under similar circumstances”.
Moonlight tells the story of Chiron throughout his young adolescence, mid teens to his young adult years. Chiron lives with his single and crack addict mother in a rough neighborhood in Miami. All through his life, Chiron is shy and withdrawn, which makes it all the more difficult to deal and understand school bullying and insults against his homosexuality. Chiron, vulnerable, evolves in world with very little guidance which may determined his path in life.
Moonlight has been receiving nothing but spectacular reviews since its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival back in September 2016. The film was deemed poetic, poignant, and powerful. But perhaps what is most unique about Moonlight is the honesty and intimacy delivered by Barry Jenkins.
As a child, Chiron is called “little” and barely talks to anyone. Unable to communicate his thoughts and unprepared to deal with his mother, he turns to caring drug dealers, Juan and Teresa, who provide a glimpse of parental support. But it is not enough to build his confidence. In his teens he turns to classmate, Kevin, the only person who will encourage him to stand up for himself and with whom he eventually has his first sexual encounter.
But even Kevin lets him down under the pressure of high school bullying. By focusing on key moments of Chiron’s life, from tender swimming lessons to the brutal school fights, combined with clever introspective close ups, Jenkins pushes us closer to Chiron’s constant struggle and frustration.
The film may be divided in three acts but sadness and sensuality linger and remain with us throughout the whole film. Nicholas Britell‘s classical score is unusual, given the film is set in a brutal Miami neighborhood, but is tender and poignant. The bold and contrasted color palette adds to Chiron’s poetic journey of self discovery while reflecting the brutality of the world he grows up in.
Growing up is, like a poem, filled with emotions and discoveries, but it leads to nowhere if you are not given the proper tools and recognition. Chiron evolves in a violent world and, unable to find his own place, sinks into dysfunction and denial.
It is not until the end that Chiron, reunited with Kevin, is finally asked: “who is you men?” Kevin, although just out of prison, has found a new job and has a child. He admits that before today he had never done anything he actually wanted to do.
Now he has a life, he is happy. Chiron, on the other hand, barely recognized by Kevin, struggles to answer and finally admits in a sudden burst of honesty, that he has been pretending all this time, never embracing who he really was.
The very last scene is Moonlight’s most powerful shot. Reminiscent of Truffaut‘s 400 Blows ending, in which young Antoine Doinel has escaped from school and runs along the seashore. The camera zooms in on his face and freezes. In a similar way, young Chiron, looks towards the sea, his back facing us and then suddenly turns around and looks directly at us, creating a truly cathartic moment.
“When are you going to be who you are if not right now?”
Moonlight is about people. It is intimately powerful and may very well be the best film of the year, or the most honest at the very least!
Moonlight by Barry Jenkins, which stars Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali, was released in the UK on February 17.