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MOONLIGHT – In A Different Light

moonlight

Directed by Barry Jenkins
Starring Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris

9/10

“At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you.”
Juan, Moonlight.

A strong contender for the Oscars, and winner of the Best Drama at the Golden Globes (make of that what you will), Moonlight comes with a lot of expectations. The question is, can it deliver on this hype?

It is a character study of Chiron, a young poor black kid played alternatively by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, at different stage (and different names) in his life. Initially it is set in the rougher areas of Miami as the young Chiron (known as Little) is found hiding in an abandoned squat by a crack dealer (Mahershala Ali). Chiron forms a familial relationship with the dealer and his girlfriend (Janelle Monae). Here he seeks advice on how to deal with the constant bullying at school, his abusive mother (Naomie Harris), and questions about his own sexuality.

Moonlight is an exploration about the quest for identity, and the factors and people that shape and mould you. It is the story of one man’s life, told in three chapters, and charting significant changes that occur. There is a consistency to Little, Chiron, and Black (the 3 identities that Chiron adopts during his life), you can chart the growth through the character, but in their own way they are also very different people. We as an audience are aware of the forces that have shaped them, even if those moments are part of the intervening years not covered by the narrative. As such Chiron is woven out of whole cloth, a complete individual made manifest in part by what we have seen on screen.

In many ways, the story of Moonlight is an exploration of the spaces in between. Each of those gap periods in Chiron’s life would be enough to fill a film in itself, yet Moonlight maintains its focus on the exploration of character. It is a disciplined approach that flows over to all the other elements of the film.

Yet as exhaustive as its character exploration is, there is a wondrous subtlety about Moonlight. It tells this tale in an almost lyrical manner, slowly letting us make the connections. It’s exquisite use of music, diegetic sound, and silence always seems to bring the right element into play in telling this story, rather than crowding the film with dialogue. It allows all these elements to speak for themselves, with a brave confidence, never overwhelming the audience.

True visual poetry, Moonlight is an experience to behold.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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