Movie Review: ‘Moonlight’ (2016)

Review by lou.

Moonlight is a resplendent cinematic wonder that is a feast for the eyes, yet a breathtaking torment for the spirit to endure so blissfully. There’s just something attached to every photograph that enables itself to allure so hypnotically that, you just can’t take your eyes off of it for the visuals expressing its lyrical structure satiate the senses from the artful sensitivity. Undoubtedly, Barry Jenkins’ sophisticated sheen gleams so brightly. The it’s sincerity that he exerts rustles in deep resonance.What he achieves here is something of an urban drama tongued with exquisite taste that headily touches on black culture, and the members of its society whose tales of splendorous struggles are kept in the dark. His genius exposes a soaring excellence wins the sympathies of audiences and critics alike – sheltering them in a world built only in authenticity, and nothing more than that. Looking at it in face value, still, there is never a pretentiousness that sticks out, nor is there a message conveyed that could be found artificial and conformed – only truth and truth alone is what filmmaker Barry Jenkins puts at the helm, and a most beautiful film that doesn’t come every once in a while is what you’ll get to encounter.


Drawing its picture with an opening scene that takes its context to a different area midway, through a moment that parallels and gives more meaning to everything else, it immediately alarms and disarms whatever we have within ourselves. Journeying through a life of pain in three acts containing affecting moods that it stimulates through its technical wonders as well as its quiet explosions – all of which shocks and sweeps us away to see how much we would break. His story submerges his travails in a manner that gets us feeling the rough texture of the world that he walks on, and emphatically makes known the pain that cripples his desires by a connection that binds him to our empathy. Racial constructs that shape the black culture and its society surround the life of Chiron, our main character, and they act very much like a monster with a torturous intent to chain him in confines that grounds him in a nightmare that he can’t put up with – or at least that is what it wants us to see.


Growth that culminates in a society so cruel and insensitive is seen to bloom so bleakly in him, and how we see and analyze the way his broken mind influences the way he acts, responds, and moves in a world that shapes his unwanted identity breaks our hearts right in front of us. Three actors depict Chiron at three different stages of his life, and all of them give off something that makes them distinctive from each other in terms of revealing manipulative facial expressions and silent, devastating gestures that when conjoined, builds a singular effort with a might that is simply too powerful and competent enough to deem as just mere performances as they navigate us to trace the roots of a life not well lived, basked in forcible conformity and ultimately doused in haunting anguish.



Each act leaves something to eternally treasure, and in the first of the three, we get introduced to its perfected crafts that open up his world through an exploration that reflects of reality, and by it, our perceptions are left with an effect later on by the wondrous narration of the themes that accentuates from one another – namely, the motifs of discovery, love, and identity. Love, a central matter is what dictates its main character’s course – be it of a mother’s, desired parents’ or a friend’s, it tells of it in such a way that is miraculously real, and unrelentingly powerful. The love of a friend is what veils the film’s outstanding second act, and what it is turns into a ruminating memory that is written all over with compassion inspired by experience. What follows next, in the third act, intensifies the aching, and wraps up the journey with a finale that gives a tender hug – wrapping up the voyage with a farewell that feels so classic; solidifying this trilogy of chapters of a man’s life that uncontrollably teems with grace and fidelity that basically makes the film as a whole, a landmark of modern American cinema that is of a singular persona.


Their division in three chapters make them out to look like raw footage, albeit with esthetics so dreamily magnetic that they show the beauty that hides underneath their agonies in a way that makes us feel what needs to be felt. If anything else, they are video recordings of one’s life taken out, and compiled into a film to speak out for what’s real, and convince us to heed what’s true – artistically declaring statements enveloping sorrows apparent in reality that it makes so recognizably identifiable; getting us to feel responsible for this heinous, unjust crime that humanity carelessly fires at itself which allows for the invisible to step forward out of the shadows. Music is also instructed to act as company for the visuals to harmonize with, and together, they bring out the immensity of the film’s depth that gives every detail a quality that seduces, and could very well be likened to a ballad of depressive misery sung with weeping passion and immeasurable splendor.


Purifying its heart in a pool of honesty, director Barry Jenkins brings the ghetto to the cinema with a light tinted in hues of blinding artistry that is rarely seen in the common envisioning of a struggle that is impossible to grapple with. Almost all of the grittiness that we usually see gets cleansed, and paves the way for its own sublimity with unrestrained elegance to trudge on instead of adhering to a brooding brutality to majestically embody what it symbolizes. The film purely consists of African-American actors that lifts it all up to a peak that manifests of its prime, and they, in particular, Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, are astonishing in their respective roles that magnificently contrast one another – realizing personal intimacies that rends apart and mends, and furthermore heaving the stellar nature that gusts through its cold, alarming screenplay.


What is brought to modern cinema with Moonlight is a genuinely 21st century, eye-opening, shattering sensation of depth – a provocatively written coming-of-age indie drama endearingly engendering a rawness too sincere, a behavior so expressive, and a universality so commanding that, one sitting is enough to take in all of its painstaking brilliance that vividly presents to us a story baring the unbearable evils and conflicts bore innately in culture and society depressingly affecting those living a life hidden in plain sight. Pridefully, it boasts a cast populated with actors/actresses of color, and for a film inclusive of them, debates whether it is deserving of any critical acclaim or not are inevitable to occur. To argue with conviction, taking it as an Oscar-bait type of picture is a mistake too grave to forgive, and a sinful one nonetheless as it solidifies where it stands firmly. It doesn’t oblige itself of claiming accolades, and only does what feels right to swing its point home, and hard with severe austerity – leaving a genuinely stinging wound that is hard to recover from, for the spiritual and conscious elation and unease gives emergence to a revolutionary and unparalleled art piece that will be just as relevant tomorrow as it is now.



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