Following the fiasco of the 2017 Oscar awards mix up, “Moonlight” was belatedly bestowed best film, the movie has a lot to live up to.
The story follows three stages of maturity as a young African American boy grows into adulthood. Living with his crack addicted mother “Paula” Naomie Harris, “Chiron” or “Little” Alex R. Hibbert has few advantages in life. He lives in a dead poor, drug infested area of Miami and is later befriended by “Juan” Mahershala Ali and his kind caring partner “Teresa” Janelle Monáe, providing much needed sanctuary for the boy.
Whilst Juan takes an interest in Chiron’s well being, this is undercut by his chosen career managing street drug dealers, the very people selling Chiron’s mother the drugs, destroying his life. This irony is not lost on the character or film and it’s disappointing this theme is explored only briefly, before we move to Chiron in his gangly teenage years played by Ashton Sanders.
Bullied at school due to him starting to question his sexuality, this only further alienates him from his peers. A criminal sentence and life of crime are only one burst of violence away and following an event with his childhood, now teenage friend “Kevin” Jharrel Jerome, this possibility edges ever closer to reality.
In the third and final segment we meet Chiron as a young man, “Black” Trevante Rhodes. Career choices have been made or to be fair, avenues of opportunity have narrowed to no choice at all. Whether Chiron can find some happiness and yet still be his true self, is the subject of the final reel.
The film is well made with some interesting directorial flourishes and music choices, including the use of a classical based score on occasion. All three actors playing the differing aged Chiron are strong. Alex is a particular standout for the youngest segment, arguably the most powerful. This is helped by a strong Oscar winning turn from Ali, it’s a shame this could not have been developed further to become an integral part of the story.
Chiron is a great character and his struggles are heartfelt and relatable, everyone feels an outsider for something. However, the film feels somewhat undermined by the last sequence and the career choices made or forced upon Chiron. “Gangsta” films in whatever form can make audiences fail to care for the characters, which is shame in this instance. Arguably following the Juan/Chiron mentoring relationship and the impact on both their lives, would have made a more interesting tale.
Best film of 2016? discuss, but Oscars have never been about “best”, creatively how can one be better than another. At least films about a broader and varied segment of society are getting recognized, following 2015’s Oscar “Whitewash”.
Undeniably well acted and directed, yet despite the many awards showered on the film, the movie may still struggle for mainstream audience adoption.
Hard to recommend overall as “entertainment”, with the gangsta element making it difficult to empathize with some of the characters, despite an initially highly likeable lead.