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Categories: Movie Reviews

Moonlight is leading the charge in a diverse new world of awards-laden films and deservingly so, writes Matthew Wilson.

The film takes place over the course of three chapters of the life of Chiron, a black youth growing up in one of the most impoverished areas of America. The three chapters track some of the most important events of his life, shaping him into who he becomes and who he will be after the credits roll.

All three chapters are incredible pieces of identity and self-discovery, with Chiron’s struggle to embrace his homosexuality in an environment that openly berates, and discourages, it being the meat of the story. The arc Chiron takes is recognisable, tragic and poetic. Even by the end, things are left unresolved.

The acting is incredible, with at least one Oscar win guaranteed. Most likely Ali, with him doing a lot with his character but in a very subdued and understated manner. What makes his character, Juan, great is that, despite being a drug dealer, he never feels like a stereotype; taking Chiron under his wing doesn’t lead to teaching him the drug trade or grooming him sexually. Instead, he’s teaching him to swim and about learning to live with your own identity. He’s a kind soul in an ugly world and recognises the struggle that the young boy is facing.

Naomie Harris’ character, Pauline, is just as complex. She recognises her son’s homosexuality but does nothing to prepare, encourage or help her son deal with his own confused feelings. As the years get on, her drug addiction worsens to where she’s openly attacking Chiron for money but, at the same time, treating him sweetly and behaving motherly; adding to the already confused mind of Chiron about where he fits in. Harris just nails the twitchy, hateful nature of a junkie but never goes into parody. She’s much too tragic a character to go that far.

Director Barry Jenkins manages to do, in only his second feature, what many other accomplished filmmakers would struggle with and creates a film with the passion, and the pathos, to live up to its subject matter without feeling  preachy. The whole thing is kept grounded through the use of hand-held cameras and long-takes to hit home just how common Chiron’s struggle is and how disheartening it is to watch him suffer alone. Even still, Jenkins allows himself brief moments of style to punctuate an important scene, as in one slo-mo argument between Pauline and young Chiron.

This film speaks for itself, Moonlight just gets you in a place few films can manage. You don’t need to be black, or gay, to understand what the film is saying. The film’s story is timeless, its acting sublime and, with Jenkins helming the project with an overwhelming amount of tact and grace, it may go down of as one of the most significant films of this century.

Moonlight will be released in UK cinemas on February 17th.

Matthew Wilson

Operating out of Livingston, Scotland, Matthew Wilson has been self-publishing reviews since 2012 - amassing over 1000 and climbing on his personal account at MovieFanCentral- and has produced a number of short films for his Graded Unit at Edinburgh College. Matthew hopes to start writing and directing his own productions one day, having written several unpublished scripts for film and television.

Posted on Jan 25, 2017

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