moonlight

Director – Barry Jenkins

Last Looks

Finally here is my review for Academy Award winner for best picture La La Land…Moonlight. Moonlight is like the little engine that could, gaining momentum after anyone who viewed it all the way to taking home three Oscar trophies. I have a confession, although I had seen all of the commotion this film was making I never got around to seeing. The main reason for this is because it seemed like every other stereotypical hood flick. Even though I heard nothing but critical acclaim it wasn’t until after the powerful victory speeches by director Barry Jenkins and cowriter Tarell Alvin McCraney at the Oscars that really had me motivated. So at my first opportunity I had to witness the work the entire world has fallen in love with.

Breakdown

Moonlight is a story broken down into three parts that follows young black male Chyron from a child to a teenager to an adult in the crime infested streets of Miami Florida. Chyron faces many challenges such as living with his mother Paula (Naomi Harris) who is addicted to drugs, bullies and questions about his sexuality. Chyron finds solace by hanging around his mentor Juan (Marhershala Ali) and girlfriend Teresa (Janele Monae). Chyron finally decides to stand up for himself and beat up his main tormentor one day with a chair and is ultimately arrested and sent to a juvenile detention in Atlanta. As Chyron becomes an adult his mentality changes and is now a drug dealer living the life he once despised. Chyron goes back home for a visit to Miami to confront his troubled past and mend fences between his estranged mother and former best friend.

Nose Candy

“You don’t talk much but you damn sure can eat”

“In moonlight, black boys look blue”

“I know that bitch like a hooker know her trick”

“If you were a man there would be four other knuckle heads sitting with you”

“You can’t be on the corner if you can’t take niggas fuckin with you”

“I fucked it up for you but your heart aint gotta be black like mine”

“These grandma rules yo ass eat yo ass speak”

Style Points

  • Opening scene all in one take
  • Camera in the water as Juan teaches Chiron how to swim
  • Chyron and Paula in hallway arguing at each other inaudibly
  • Melodic Sounds of the Ocean waves
  • Nightmares waking Chyron up into new chapter

Role Play

Alex Hibbert (Child Chiron)
Ashton Sanders (Teenage Chiron)
Trevante Rhodes (Adult Chiron)- All three did a good job for me. Even though this character was very quiet throughout his life. The action spoke volumes and in each scenario Chyron found out something about himself which is the beauty of this film.

Naomi Harris (Paula)- The best performance in the film which I think was also the best work of her career. I was most impressed with the transformation from junkie trying to get a fix to caring mother fighting for her sons affection. The scene with Paula and Chyron in the rehabilitation center where she proclaimed “You aint gotta love me but you gone know that I love you” words gave me chills.

Marhershala Ali (Juan)-  Ali made an impact with the limited screen time. Congrats on the Best Supporting Actor Academy win.

Janelle Monae (Teresa)- Monae has definitely surprised me as of late with an exceptional performance here as well as in Hidden Figures. It’s always great to see a different side to her in films and see her actually becoming a bigger star in movies then in music.

Money Shot

When thugs cry. The final scene progresses with a now adult Chyron and Kevin opening up about the last time they saw one another. Chyron claims “You the only man to ever touch me” letting Kevin know how personal he took his act of betrayal. The two end up hugging it out in a heartwarming scene that would even make the toughest bad-ass eyes start to water.

Final Touch

I am ashamed of myself for not checking out Moonlight sooner. I love how unpredictable this film is, I had no idea where it was going to end up but it took me on a journey and the destination was fulfilling. The story was well told as I thought the three chapter outline was innovative. The performances were impactful as well as inspiring and uplifting. Growing up as a young black male in a crime infested neighborhood myself this film had a strong effect on me. It speaks on the tribulations that can ensue when you are just trying to be your self not a product of your environment. This was a great film that I am glad was recognized as Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Moonlight gives a voice to the unheard to keep persevering and brightens up audiences who are unaware of the obstacles young black and brown people face every day trying to find their identity living in urban communities.

-Caleb Harris