Top 100 Films Of The 2010’s – #46 – Moonlight (2016)


RELEASED: 17th February 2017

DIRECTOR: Barry Jenkins

CAST: Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert, André Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Jaden Piner, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe and Patrick Decile

BUDGET: $4m

BOX OFFICE WORLDWIDE: $65m

AWARDS: 3 Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay) and 1 Golden Globe (Best Picture Drama)

A young African-American man grapples with his identity and sexuality while experiencing the everyday struggles of childhood, adolescence, and burgeoning adulthood.

 

Moonlight chronicles the life of Chiron through three different periods of his life; as a young boy, as a teenager and as a young man. We follow Chiron through his upbringing, questioning his sexuality and later creating this masculine exterior.

 

Moonlight is the Academy Award winning drama from Barry Jenkins that chronicles the life of Chiron Harris growing up in Liberty City, Miami, and we follow him through his upbringing, questioning his sexuality and the struggles that come with it and how it shapes him to be what he becomes in adulthood, titled in three phases defined by the nicknames and identities given to him – Little, Chrion and Black. Barry Jenkins direction feels very precise with every frame of this film, especially with how its captured by cinematographer James Laxton, in the way that they capture the rich, saturated colours of  Liberty City and especially in how water is always used in the symbolism of Chiron’s growth, from Juan teaching him how to swim for the first time, to the ice water in the bathroom sink that leads to his transforming as teen Chiron to become Black. It’s a beautifully told story as we witness Little feeling alienated by his sexuality, how uncomfortable he feels talking to others (the bullying adds to that) and we witness the psychological abuse he receives from his mother Paula, as we see also how she deteriorates with her drug addiction. Every frame and every sound of the ocean is placed with purpose and the score from Nicholas Britell is at times beautiful to listen to. The performances from the actors playing Chiron – Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert – I thought were great and they depict Chiron’s life convincingly in their own ways whilst maintaining the characters mannerisms, with Hibbert being the withdrawn child that is fending for himself, Sanders being the awkward, bullied teen that comes to an empowering crossroads and Rhodes as the muscular ‘hard’ Black that mirrors that of his original mentor Juan. The supporting ensemble is great as well, particularly the Oscar winning performance from Mahershala Ali as Juan, the local drug dealer that develops an attachment to Chiron and decides to fill in the void of ‘father figure’ in the boys life and giving him tips on life along the way, giving him one valuable lesson in that “At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you.” Naomie Harris is also terrific as Chiron’s abusive mother who you are meant to hate and yet when she shows vulnerability when having a heart to heart with her son I actually felt sympathy for her. Janelle Monáe is also really good here as Juan’s partner, Teresa, who looks out for Chiron whenever he needs her. In the portrayals of Kevin Jones, Jaden Piner is good as the kid Kevin, Jharrel Jerome is really good as teenage Kevin and I thought André Holland was excellent as the adult Kevin, shining on screen with his charisma in the films final act. Barry Jenkins is definitely a filmmaker to keep on eye on in the decade ahead.

 

FAVOURITE SCENE: Juan takes Little to the beach and teaches him how to swim. “You in the middle of the world.” The entire sequence is beautifully shot.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: “What’s a faggot?

A faggot is… a word used to make gay people feel bad.

Am I a faggot?

No. You’re not a faggot. You can be gay, but you don’t have to let nobody call you a faggot.” – Little & Juan 

DID YOU KNOW: When Juan teaches Little how to swim, Mahershala Ali is really teaching Alex R. Hibbert how to swim. When production started, Hibbert did not know how to swim.

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