Moonlight review: Making its UK debut at the London Film festival, Barry Jenkins delivers a flawless coming of age tale that could just be one of the best of the year.
Moonlight review, Paul Heath, LFF 2016.
Moonlight debuts at the BFI London Film Festival following an impressive turn at TIFF where it was the talk of the town in a sea of strong competition. Segregated into three distinct chapters, the film follows the character of Chiron during three very specific times in his life as he journeys from childhood, into adolescence and into adulthood in a very rough area of Miami.
Moonlight is actually based on the play In ‘Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue’ by Tarell Alvin McCraney, and follows Chiron as he struggles with growing up in very difficult circumstances while struggling with his own sexual identity. We first see him as a nine-year-old nick-named ‘Little’ (played effortlessly by Alex R. Hibbert), the young boy free to roam the streets of an under privileged area of 1980s Miami, integrating with drug dealers before eventually being taken in by Jean (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae), and away from his neglectful, though deeply addicted mother Naomie Harris (in perhaps a career-best turn). It is in this chapter where the young Little/ Chiron questions himself over his sexuality and thinks to himself that perhaps he may be gay after being taunted by his peers. Moonlight then segways into a strong middle-section where we meet Chiron as a teenager (played with aplomb by Ashton Sanders), struggling to hide his homosexuality from his school friends and the more vicious bullies who constantly taunt him, including the young Kevin (Jharrel Jerome in this section), a key character in Chiron’s story. From they we delve into a more present-day surroundings with a more mature and more guarded Chiron (an outstanding turn from the supremely gifted Trevante Rhodes) who uses fast cars and beefed-up body to once again shield him from his inner feelings. A chance meeting with Kevin (André Holland) opens old wounds while at the same time brings out emotions in a raw, emotional finale.
Moonlight doesn’t blow you away with it’s over-dramatic segments, but more mesmerises with its subtle script, hypnotising visuals and its across-the-board flawless acting from its ensemble. As we said above, Harris has never been better, but it is the gifted, subtle turn of Rhodes’ third-act Chiron who steals the show in a nuanced performance – seamlessly matching the mannerisms of the actors who play his younger self. Expect his name to come up in awards considerations over the coming months.
Barry Jenkins‘ subtle filmmaking style and outstanding screenplay are spot on for the tone of this character-driven piece which should propel him to being one of Hollywood’s most sought-after filmmakers.
Moonlight engrosses from the off and will make you laugh and sob in equal measure. A story that it beautiful, relevant, necessary and heart-breaking, but at the same time massively fulfilling. Pure cinematic perfection.
Moonlight review by Paul Heath, London Film Festival 2016.
Moonlight will be released Stateside on October 21st, 2016. It will debut at the London Film Festival in October, but is awaiting a general UK release.