What’s amazing about Moonlight isn’t its unconventional structure or how breathtaking the cinematography is. It’s that lo and behold, Hollywood has finally opened its doors to a story unlike anything we’ve ever seen before: A movie about the struggles of a homosexual African American man.
So, is it any good?
The well-accepted identity of the African American man is someone who is strong, masculine and attracted to women. Strikingly, this film broke those boundaries to tell a story of one man’s struggle to find himself among this culture and his peers.
Moonlight revolves around our main character, who goes by three names in the film. We watch him grow, in his home life, his school life and his personal life. This entire time, he harbors a secret so dangerous, that it could destroy his life…literally. Director Barry Jenkins, who is relatively new to the feature world, delivers a stunning look at an entire man’s life, told in three time periods.
He explores a decaying lifestyle, depicting what it’s like living in the poorest parts of Miami with a crack addict mother and drugs sold around every corner. There are scenes in the film that causes the audience to hold their breath because the drama is so palpable. To see the sheer craftsmanship and subtlety in the creation of scenes and drama make this film worth watching. The story is done with precision and realism, and provides a much overdue message to the general public: that it’s ok to tell more stories like this.
Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris give strong performances as the mentor with a heart of gold and the drugged out mother. But to me, it was the three boys/men who stole the show. During rehearsals, Barry Jenkins purposefully kept all three actors from meeting each other even though they were playing the same person in different periods of his life. And yet, when you watch the film, each actor delivers the same physicality. It’s uncanny!
What I enjoyed most about the movie was how universal it was and how great of it job it did bridging the internal struggles of this one man with the audience. I am not from Miami and by no means understand any of that culture nor that world, and yet, with every obstacle and every broken relationship our protagonist had to face, I was right there by his side, holding his hand.
There is considerable Oscar buzz for this film and too right, there should be! Especially with the current backlash the academy has been facing over #oscarsowhite, this will definitely be a best picture contender and in my mind, it will either go to Moonlight or La La Land. This film deserves every praise and award that comes its way and I hope beyond hope that it’ll get the recognition it deserves.