Oscar buzz is always something that garners excitement. I’m always enthralled to see a critically acclaimed award worthy film to see what the hype is about myself. Moonlight is a film about a man named Chiron. He is a gay black male growing up around bullying, hate, and an uncaring and unresponsive mother. Chiron’s life is told in three phases: as a little boy, as a teenager in high school, and as an adult. Three actors portray Chiron and all of them are impressive. The subject matter is heavy and delivered with an unhinged feeling of reality.
Young Chiron has to deal with a mother who is inattentive and is addicted to drugs. He seeks help and comfort from a caring couple played by Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monae. The second segment is probably the toughest to watch as teenage Chiron in his quiet and withdrawn nature has to deal with his first experience of homosexuality and all that comes with it. What comes with it? Bullying, which is intense. He gets picked on and suffers emotional and physical abuse. This causes him to snap and violently attack his bully which leads to his arrest. The third segment, Chiron is an adult and a drug dealer, however this is the most satisfying segment as Chiron gets closure on a lot of relationships and problems that previously plagued his life.
The cinematography in the film is excellent. There are times where the camerawork is personal, such as in the school fight. The camera takes a first person view in this instance, which allows you to be in the fight and experience the blows firsthand. This also happens a few times when portraying Chiron’s drug addicted mother. The score is also fantastic at points and becomes touching towards the end. The film looks crisp and refined behind the lens of the still relative newcomer, Barry Jenkins.
The films authenticity makes it so powerful. Chiron could be any real disadvantaged kid growing up in a shady area filled with fighting and drugs. Chiron can’t help that he was born into this ugly life, and no matter how hard he tries to get away from it, something pulls him in. In spite of his disadvantaged circumstances Chiron tries to find solace and inner peace with the problems and relationships in his life. It does not always have to be bleak, the past is the past the future is what you make of it.
The performances from just about everyone is great. There are a few newcomer performances all of which work very well. I especially liked Naomie Harris as Chiron’s drug addicted mother. The final scene with adult Chiron and older Harris is tense but relieving. Overall, its a strong film by Barry Jenkins, one that is loaded with very beautiful scenes and some really harrowing moments. Its a very solid effort one that you will think about long after seeing the film. We could have a strong award season contender here.