Moonlight // Film Review



Director: Barry Jenkins

Released: 2016

Rating: ★★★★✩

Finally getting round to writing about this film and I definitely have a lot to say about it. After the Oscars 2017 and the infamous Best Picture mix-up, I felt the need to watch this film. I’d seen La La Land and enjoyed it, however as Moonlight did indeed win Best Picture, I felt compelled to watch it too. I had been told by several people to watch the film as they said that was incredible and well-worthy of winning the award. This film was a cinematic masterpiece, with a beautiful soundtrack to contrast against the harsh aspects of the story line and it was a film that was captivating the whole way through, you couldn’t look away at any point in fear of missing something, subtle or not.

The film progresses through the life of Chiron, firstly as a young boy (Alex Hibbert), then as a teenager (Ashton Sanders) and then as an adult (Trevante Rhodes). The life Chiron leads is a troubled one, dealing with abuse, bullying and drugs. The abuse he receives from his mother can clearly be seen to affect him through each of the three stages of his life, where dreams and flashbacks are commonplace – adding another layer of darkness to the already upsetting storyline. Not only this but he struggles with coming to terms with his sexuality as he lives in fear of provocation from the people around him as a result. For those in the LGBT community, it may be quite hard to watch certain scenes from this film as Chiron is not accepted by those around him, he’s thrown homophobic slurs and becomes emotionally conflicted as a result which affects most of his relationships throughout his life.

One aspect which was the most prominent for me in this film was the remarkable amount of emotion all three actors poured into the character when portraying Chiron. From his sad poker face when he was a child, to the raw sobs that the teenage and adult Chiron let loose and deals with. It was incredibly hard not to shed a tear after watching Chiron being abused by both Terrell and his Mother and watching how he copes with it and by coping, it means watching him struggle in silence which is awful to watch. It makes it all the more harder to process when the realisation suddenly dawns on you that these acts of homophobia and scenes of masculine repression are so prevalent and such a toxic part of our actual society that it made me angry. This is especially relevant of the part when Kevin is taunted by Terrell to beat up Chiron and does so, however after Chiron speaks to his therapist, it’s revealed that Chiron’s situation would be different had he been a man rather than a boy. Chiron then decides to retaliate and hits Terrell with a chair, resulting in him being detained which seems so unfair and really makes you feel for Chiron and his unfortunate circumstances.

If you’re looking for a light film, to watch and enjoy, this is not the film. It’s incredibly dark and in some places full of shocking realisations, for those who like me are awfully and unintentionally ignorant to the terrible things that are still ongoing in society. However, despite the scenes containing very sensitive and in some cases adult content, the intense and dramatic soundtrack is on another level, adding perfectly to the ambiance – light music contrasting with the heavy themes in the film. Especially because in this film there is a focus on the picture itself and what is actually happening rather than what’s being said, the music therefore helps to create the visual by because it is the majority of the audio aspects of the film rather than dialogue.

I feel like there is much to be said about the Oscar’s mix up too and this film, considering the whole of the cast consist of black actors/actresses and the dominance of a whitewashed hollywood and heteronormative society we live in. Therefore, it was wrongly presupposed that La La Land would win the award because it contains a predominantly white cast with no LGBT themes which unfortunately in our society still isn’t accepted wholly as it should be. However, I feel the whole cast and crew of Moonlight thoroughly deserved this win, for such a heartfelt film reaching out to those who may be somehow affected by themes in this film. I just wish more films like this would be brought to the forefront of our cinematic experience as it will help to increase the inclusivity of the film industry which currently is so dominated with straight, white, men.

It may be quite hard for someone to say that they enjoyed this film as it would come across as slightly sadistic however, I feel that it’s appropriate instead to recognise that some people will really appreciate this film and the messages it’s trying to convey about the toxicity of masculinity and repression of sexuality in society. If you haven’t already watched this film I would really recommend it.

Beth Morley


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