Director: Barry Jenkins
Verdict: Nearlly a masterpeice
Can A24, (Green Room, Swiss Army Man, Room, The Lobster, The Witch) just like stop with the amazing films please? You’re making everyone else look bad. Like I wanna own a studio/distributor one day and it’s just like why bother? I’ll never do as well as A24. It’s like now I see them at the beginning of the trailer for, for example, 20th Century Women, and I already trust that I’m going to love it. (Incedentally, that will be my next The Gryphon review so you’ll have to wait a bit for your version xx).
Moonlight is less a movie about a gay black kid, more about an inner city kid who just happens to be black and gay, which makes his life harder, in fact I can’t think of one white face I saw on screen, not like that’s a bad thing, it’s actually a refreshing change. The film is trifurcated into three distinct acts as this kid grows up and learns, really how to accept within himself that he’s gay.
There are a lot of things to praise about Moonlight. The first being simply that the decision to make the film just about one man learning to accept himself is incredibly brave. Although there are moments of proper acting, and extraordinary, evocative high drama, the movie as a whole is extraordiarily underrated. Emblematic of this is it’s approach to it’s same-sex sex scenes. I remember the fuss I kicked up over the approach that Blue Is the Warmest Colour took, (review here), how gratuitous it was, and I was so impressed at how tasteful, yet beautifully emotional those scenes are in Moonlight.
It’s very well acted, however where as in a film like this it can sometimes become very much about the acting and the directing takes a back seat, in this case the film is really aided by the fact that the camera work, score, and editing does a lot of the heavy lifting. That’s not to say that’s all the heavy lifting done, Naomie Harris, (Skyfall, 28 Days Later…), is really great as the central Chiron’s mother, Janelle Monáe, (Hidden Figures) is really good, as are Ashton Sanders, (Straight Outta Compton) and Trevante Rhodes, (Westworld). Mahershala Ali, (House of Cards), is also really good as this drug dealer figure who through meeting Chiron and his mother, begins to realise the damage he reeks and they begin to break through his detatchment from his job that allows him to sleep at night.
That’s not to say the film is perfect, after the first two acts which are explosive and full on and great, the more laid back third act, impressive as it is, feels like someone put the breaks on the film, and the child actors really could be better. That doesn’t mean though that Moonlight isn’t an impressive, tender, brilliantly directed, strongly acted portrait of a character and a culture, and it marks director Barry Jenkins out as one to watch.