Language : English
Director : Barry Jenkins
Writers : Barry Jenkins (screenplay), Tarell Alvin McCraney (story)
Cast : Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes
Genre : Drama
Streaming on Amazon Prime.
“You ain’t gotta love me, but you gonna know that I love you.”
Moonlight is a film that is labelled as sexual with the subtly rendered themes often overlooked. Moonlight is not just a film about sexual orientation or color, it’s a movie which renders individuality, love, family and society deftly.
The coming-of-age film, partitioned into three and aptly titled – i. Little, ii. Chiron, iii. Black, portrays Chiron’s childhood, adolescence and adulthood respectively. Part 1 – Little, revolves around the protagonist Chiron, an African-American child. Chiron is abused by his friends and repressed by his drug-addict mother. He encounters Juan, a drug dealer who becomes his father figure. Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali portray Little and Juan and they do that well, the chemistry between them is ample.
Part ii. Chiron, shows the teenage years of Chiron (Ashton Sanders). Paula (Naomie Harris), his mother turns into a junkie and gets abusive, he gets bullied in school and is disillusioned by his love interest, Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). Naomie Harris is just wonderful, her rendering of the abusive mother is intense. Part ii acts as a bridge, deteriorating Chiron’s life to connect the intriguing third act, (Part iii – Black) with the first part.
Part iii – Black, Chiron is now a young adult. This partition of the film is as aforementioned, intriguing because of the surprising alteration in the narrative and the evolution of the persona Chiron. Trevante Rhodes plays Black and he plays him satisfactorily. Part iii is simple and strong, in short it’s a fine third act to the film.
The thing about screenplays from playwrights is, their screenplay somehow seems very brief but it’s just too beautiful and it’s prevalent throughout the movie. I loved the screenplay by Tarell Alvin McCraney, it’s short, surprising and very strong. That with Barry Jenkins’ fantastic direction, who portrays many things in little time, let it be maternal bond, individuality or social norms – the upshot is a fine film.
The performances of Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris are strong, especially Ali who with a short role gives us something memorable. Rest of the cast are commendable but Ali sets the bar a little too high. Other factors which elevate the total aesthetics of the film are the cinematography and the soundtracks. The vivid and colorful shots by James Laxton are ample. The chopped and skewed hip hop tracks and orchestral soundtracks by Nicholas Brittel are very apt for the film.
With minimum dialogues and characters, Barry Jenkins makes the film talk a lot. There are unforgettable moments and surprising conversations which makes it all the more impressive. Somehow at times, it feels a little pretentious but don’t be deceived, Moonlight is vehement and a good film.
Verdict – 6/7 stars
According to cinematographer James Laxton Moonlight only had a small budget of $1.5 million (Variety). Director Barry Jenkins confirmed at a Q&A at the BFI in London, that this was indeed the budget. This is a lower budget than any other ‘Best Picture’ winner since Rocky (1976) had, which cost a reported $1.1 million in its day. But if the budgets are adjusted for inflation, then “Moonlight” has to be regarded as the ‘Best Picture’ winner with the lowest budget ever.
Naomie Harris had to shoot her entire role in three days, in between her promotional tour of Spectre (2015), due to a visa problem (Harris is British). The scenes spanned 15 years in the character’s life and were filmed out of sequence.
When Juan teaches Little how to swim, Mahershala Ali is really teaching Alex R. Hibbert how to swim. When production started, Hibbert did not know how to swim.
In an interview, Barry Jenkins said that the three actors who play Chiron never met during production. He wanted each of them to build their own persona of Chiron during their respective segments, with no influence from the other portrayals. The same technique was used with the actors who play Kevin.
- Read more at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4975722/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2.