Moonlight has been so highly lauded (it won Best Drama at the Golden Globes this year), I wanted to be sure I saw it before the awards on Sunday. I was not disappointed. What really made this movie shine was the acting. I have seldom seen such range of emotion from literally every major character in a film. They brought the story of a disadvantaged African-American youth to life for us with poignancy and passion.
The story of Chiron is presented in three vignettes, the first when he is just a nine-year-old boy called Little (Alex Hibbert), mercilessly bullied by his “friends” and ignored by his drug addicted single mother, Paula (Naomie Harris). With no father around, a chance meeting with Juan (Mahershala Ali) gives him a substitute father figure for a while. Juan is a drug dealer with a heart. He takes to Chiron and may be that one influence that gave some stability to Chiron’s young life when none was available.
We next see Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) as an awkward teenager, still the brunt of harassment by his schoolmates. When Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) befriends him, he finds in him a friend and someone he can open up to. Their loving encounter makes a lasting impression on Chiron.
The final part of Chiron’s story is when he is an adult. He has shaped himself into a strong, assertive man, following in the footsteps of his father figure Juan. What impresses in this final chapter we see of Chiron (Ashton Sanders), is that Kevin (Andre Holland) contacts him after several years. The interactions between the two friends are done so well by the actors, and the compassion and love between them is poignant and beautiful. They both should have been nominated for best supporting actor for their performances.
The film is rated R for some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and language throughout. It is nominated for eight Academy Awards: Best Picture and Director, Best Supporting Actor and Actress for Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, Best adapted screenplay, cinematography, film editing, and original score.
The score is beautifully haunting, and serves to accentuate the actions of the characters, in a way that is both noticeable and yet unobtrusive. I found it fascinating that three different actors played Chiron and Kevin. That is to be expected given the years involved. Somehow they were all believable. I found myself thinking this really could be the grown up Chiron, the teen Chiron, so sensitive and vulnerable, driven to do what he had to do to survive, to get along in the world he was born into.
Tomorrow we’ll find out how many awards Moonlight will win at the Oscars this year. My favorite is still La La Land for Best Picture. Moonlight will be remembered for a very long time by filmgoers who have the opportunity to see it. It is beautiful in its depiction of humanity, the bad as well as the good that overcomes. I highly recommend you see it.