In this, a film chronicling the minefield of adolescence for a young boy struggling to find who he is, a young man with a difficult home life comes of age in Miami during America’s “War on Drugs” era. The tale of his adolescence is told through three chapters which detail every element of his teenage years and young adulthood, and highlight his struggle in trying to discover who he really is.
Maybe I’ve left things very understated with that short synopsis of Moonlight, but then, maybe I haven’t. The film has a very basic concept, but, much like Fences, does the simple things very well. Perhaps the reason it has been so well received is that it is a film that resonates with everyone on some level. Whatever it is, it has ensured that the film has taken the world by storm.
Every single performance in this film is wonderful, but there are a couple of stand outs for me. Naomie Harris was very, very good as Paula, Chiron’s addict mother. She was a far cry from her previous performances as Eve Moneypenny in the James Bond films, and I think showed her capabilities as an actress, as she has had no previous experience with addiction herself. She gave a convincing performance, and the progression, or should I say downward spiral that we see with her character is crystal clear throughout the film.
Mahershala Ali was also terrific; although I have to be honest I had expected to see more of him, especially given the fact that he received an Oscar nomination for his work. One scene in particular was what sold his whole performance to me. If one thing is for certain, regardless of how long he was on-screen for, he made a lasting impact, which is what you want with every character you see in every film, otherwise what was the point of them being there in the first place?
As I’ve already said, the entire premise of this film is so simple, but that is where its genius lies. For me, it shares similarities with Boyhood with its tale of adolescence, but perhaps works out slightly better than the other film as it has a runtime that comes in at about an hour less. The struggles depicted throughout the film are along the lines of what we all have to deal with during this period of our lives and is why it works so well.
Director Barry Jenkins really has accomplished something of greatness with Moonlight. One of the film’s greatest strengths was its use of silence. When you sit and think about it, there are a relatively low number of conversations that take place throughout the film – the spaces where nothing is spoken verbally scream way more than what the characters actually say, especially when it comes to Chiron. I can only assume that it was Jenkins’s awareness of the effectiveness of the sound of silence that made it almost like another character throughout the film.