Widely regarded as one of the most intimate and well-made movies of all time, Moonlight is nothing short of a masterpiece, every element coming together to create an experience that can be appreciated by all.
Written by Becca Johnson
Moonlight is an understated gem that tells the heartbreaking story of Chiron, a young African-American man struggling with his identity and sexuality. The movie tells Chiron's story across three pivotal chapters as we see his life during childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
What sets this movie apart from the rest and gives it that special feeling is it's storytelling. Though each chapter of Chiron's life is tonally different, the movie as a whole manages to feel cohesive, flowing between each chapter effortlessly. The third act slows things down compared to the first two, yet the movie is paced perfectly and allows the audience time with the characters. The story shows Chiron navigating his identity, masculinity and sexuality through his relationships and interactions with his Mother, his peers and most importantly his best friend Kevin, who he gradually develops romantic feelings for. Though the plot explores so much, it remains subtle and quiet yet incredibly powerful. Director Barry Jenkins delves into the lives of those who are rarely explored in movies, and it feels special.
Every performance in Moonlight is exceptional. All three actors who play Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes) understand the depth of the character, and each performance feels as though it truly resembles the same character, even down to the expressions and personality. This is not only proof of the talent in front of the camera, but the talent behind it. As we see Chiron grow into adulthood, we can see the journey he has taken, yet he remains very much the same person he was at the start in childhood. The same can be said for the actors who play best friend and love interest Kevin (Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, Andre Holland). Naomie Harris gives a career best performance as Chiron's mother Paula, who struggles with addiction. Mahershala Ali steals the show in his performance as Juan, the man who becomes Chiron's guide and role model. The Best Supporting Actor Oscar win was rightly awarded.
In terms of technical aspects, Moonlight is without a flaw. Cinematographer James Laxton shows a large amount of talent, each shot feeling as though it was meticulously crafted. Beautiful imagery is filtered throughout the entire movie, with memorable camerawork and scenery. The opening shot of the third act is a one-take shot, marking a pivotal moment where our two leads meet again for the first time in a while, and it becomes one of the greatest shots of the whole production. The soundtrack and original score combine together to match the tone of the story perfectly, and is utilised to enhance many scenes to a higher emotional level. Joi McMillon was the first African-American female to be nominated in the Editing category, and the nomination was deserved. The shots lingered for the perfect amount of time to invoke emotion, and it's obvious that each scene was analysed by McMillon to create the most effective cuts.
Overall, Moonlight gives its audience a raw, emotional and very human experience. Barry Jenkins has created a very important and powerful movie that tells a story worth telling, about the lives of those who aren't often portrayed in film in this manner. Most of the time, it feels like real people on-screen and not actors portraying characters, as every emotion and interaction is so authentic. This may be one of the most essential movies ever made, and is definitely worthy of that Best Picture win.