Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

Moonlight Review

Moonlight is a tribute to the quest for human connection in a part of America that has been, at best, ignored, and more often demonized by the power structure of our country.  It is too simple to call it a coming of age story of an African-American male through three stages of his young life--child, teen, and young adult--because Moonlight is transcendent.  It would be more accurate to say Writer/Director Barry Jenkins' work is a triptych, painted on the scorched canvas of Miami's mean streets that takes one young man from isolation to identity.  Time will tell if it is a masterpiece, but the film, based on Tarell Alvin McCraney's autobiographical play, "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" understands that sometimes less is more; what is unsaid shouts louder than words.

Chapter one: "Little" Chiron (Alex Hibbert) is a ten-year-old boy who lives in fear: at school, he is dogged by bullies; at home, his mother Paula (Naomie Harris) is a self-absorbed addict.  While hiding out one day, he is discovered by Juan (Mahershala Ali), a drug dealer, who takes him home to meet his companion Teresa (Janelle Monae). They see something in the child's sad, soulful eyes that elicits compassion, and soon Juan becomes a father figure, a relationship culminating in a moving scene where Juan teaches Chiron how to swim, a symbolic baptism in the waters off of Miami beach, a few blocks yet a world away from the desolation and desperation of his neighborhood.
Chapter two:"Chiron" is a teenager (Ashton Sanders)--tall, slender, still quiet.  Paula's addiction worsens, so Chiron goes to Teresa to do homework and get a decent meal.  Bullies still stalk, and he is still alone, except for his childhood friend Kevin (Jharrel Jerome).  At a time of life when egos are fragile, masculinity and status are often tested by sexuality and aggression, but Chiron remains a sensitive observer until the peaceful sands of Miami Beach bring an awakening and the hostile high school brings a reckoning.
Chapter three: "Black" reveals Chiron, a young man (Trevante Rhodes) who is now a drug dealer in Atlanta, pumped up and intimidating from his "grills" to his cold stare.  But in unguarded moments his eyes retreat to soulful sadness and uncertainty.  One night, his old friend Kevin (Andre' Holland) calls, hoping for a redemption.  Chiron accepts, and their reunion brings a verbal pas de deux in a scene, at once tense and tender, that fittingly frames Moonlight.

As the film unfolds, Barry Jenkins channels the best of Terrence Malick, blending cinematography (James Laxton), sound (Nicholas Britell), and story into visual artscape.  Under his direction, the gifted young Hibbert/Sanders/Rhodes trifecta brings integrity rather than mimicry to the three stages of Chiron's story.  The supporting cast is exceptional, most notably Mahershala Ali (Mockingjay I&II, Hidden Figures) and Naomie Harris (Spectre) as the most significant adults in Chiron's young life.  The editing is crisp, flowing from vignette to vignette with smooth transition and pace.  It took several days for Moonlight to marinate in my mind before I wrote about it, but each subsequent reflection furthered my endearment and appreciation for this beautiful film.

9 out of 10

Guy S. Malone, Researcher


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