Before we get into the heavy stuff, I will say as much as I enjoyed watching this film, I equally enjoyed watching the faces of the older white majority of people in the theater during some of the scenes. But you know what? Good for them! I truly applaud them for being open-minded and paying to see a movie about a journey through the life of some brothas from Miami becoming real men. I overheard an older lady of Caucasian persuasion say to her friend a few seats over from me, “Loving was great too! It looked like we were taking strides together, and then Trump wins the election…” Her words, not mine.
On that perfect note, I will start off by saying this may be the most important film of the year.
Ok, so last year, although technically undocumented since this site was not yet in existence, I thought The Revenant was overall the best film of the year and should have won Best Picture at the Oscars. With that said, I also thought that Spotlight, which was great in its own right, was the most powerful and consequently the most important film of the year. It specifically hit home for me, being a product of the Catholic school system from grades 1 through 12. My point is…in the same way Spotlight was the most important film of last year, Moonlight takes that honor for 2016.
Moonlight tells the story of a boy named Chiron (aka “Little,” aka “Black”), who grew up in the hot, tough streets of Miami dealing with his drug addict mother (played by Naomie Harris) and battling internal secrets of his own. The movie takes us on a journey through Chiron’s life, starting from age 10 in his troubled youth, through his defining high school years, and culminating with his maturation into the man he has become in present day. He hurdles obstacles along the way, including bullies in school, raising his own mother (which tends to happen with kids dealing with drug-addicted parents), and figuring out his true identity.
All of the actors who played the evolving ages and personas of Chiron, Alex Hibbert (Little), Ashton Sanders ( young Chiron) and Trevante Rhodes (Black) all did a fantastic job of portraying a boy who is hollow and a man who is emotionally tangled. For me, the performance of the film was Naomie Harris as Chiron’s mother. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has already nominated her for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, and I expect the Academy to follow suit for an Oscar nomination as well. As I watched the movie, I felt like I was watching a documentary of a real life addict and her tumultuous relationship with her son instead of a fictional story.
Unlike the actors who portrayed Chiron, Harris plays her character the full length of the movie. The makeup that created the illusion of the evolution of a broken woman through the span of approximately 20 years was spot on. I would consider her the favorite to take home the Golden Globe next month.
I know there has been a buzz as well around Mahershala Ali’s performance as Juan in this movie, the man who took Chiron under his wing. While he did a great job, he just wasn’t in the movie long enough for my liking. I honestly would have liked to have seen him involved more somehow. Still, during the actual amount of time he was on screen, he definitely was captivating.
I’d like to say kudos to director Barry Jenkins for bringing a fantastic screenplay to life. Moonlight has several amazing camera shots, spefically the swift 360 degree angles taken when showing the tense scenes early on in Chiron’s life. I really felt anxious and overwhelmed as a result of those shots while watching those scenes, just as Chiron would have felt going through them in his actual life. Jenkins also did a great job of linking the phases of Chiron’s life together like a perfectly spun web. Any questions you have about people or events in a past phase are answered smoothly in each new one. Most of all, thank you Mr. Jenkins for making a film with such an abundance of lessons. In fact, I made each lesson I got out of it into paragraphs of their own because I feel like they all are equally important.
Moonlight is important because it takes the audience through the life and evolution of a man, regardless of whether it turns out good or bad. It is an awesome window into an often hidden reality. A lot of men keep emotions inside and don’t like to tell others who or what have molded them into the man they’ve become. This movie gives great effort in showing us.
It is important to children (not that it’s necessarily for kids due to the content) because it teaches the importance of the anti-bullying movement.
It is important to parents because it shows you how and why you should be more empathetic and sympathetic to your kids when they are going through tough times in their early lives. Your time and love is priceless and a necessity to their development.
It is important to heterosexual males in that it teaches perseverance through all of life’s ups and downs and to mold yourself into who you want to be and not who you think society says you should be.
It is important to homosexuals because it shows that you should be yourself proudly and never feel the need to hide who you really are for anyone, or from anyone.
It teaches drug addicts that it’s never too late to quit, re-invent yourself and save your relationships.
The lessons from this story are endless, and I believe every single person who watches Moonlight can take from it a lesson about themselves going forward in some way or another.
With that being said, if you are the kind of person who finds yourself being more immature than mature in life, then please do not see this movie. Moonlight deals with grown-ass issues and teaches grown-ass lessons, so if you can’t handle that or see it for what it is and is intended to be, then don’t see it.
Moonlight has the evolutionary life story of Boyhood, and blends into the unconventional love story of Brokeback Mountain. It brings to life the journey and serves as a tour guide to the abundance of vices in inner-city life right to your doorstep in the same fashion of Hustle and Flow. It tackles several relevant issues to 21St Century America in its own way, though, which makes it so powerful.
Matter Rating: 8.5/10
Oscar Scale: 9/10
BY: CHRIS GUEST