Moonlight tells the story of human self-discovery and connection as it chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighbourhood of Miami.
Films like Moonlight really make you question why more opportunities let alone recognition have been given to filmmakers like writer/director Barry Jenkins and so much focus being given to films that hardly even deserve the time of day in this years awards season (yes, I’m specifically looking at you La La Land). Jenkins is a truly fascinating storyteller as he tackles a very much difficult subject in the gay African-American not only realising himself that he’s gay but coming out an environment that would most certainly hate him for it. Though, this isn’t the only struggle that the film takes on, even though the preferred sexual attraction of the lead is a significant portion of the story, its overall about identity.
The film is split into three parts but doesn’t feel like the film separates itself by doing this. Naomie Harris gives a stand out performance and what was notably interesting about it was that everything you see of her on screen was filmed in three consecutive days due to her visa issues in her travelling to work in the US from the UK. If Harris is not a brilliant performer and Jenkins not an amazing director for drawing that kind of performance out of Harris, then I don’t know what to say to you apart from the fact that you’re crazy to think otherwise.
The film is subtle and hardly over the top like many Hollywood films (see La La Land) though it’s not so subtle, where so much is happening inside the character that’s not clearly shown, that you have no idea what’s going on (see Manchester By The Sea). Jenkins has a truly ambitious vision for Moonlight as the films protagonist attempts to navigate the options he has as a person in his position. Although not much needs to be said, we as the audience get everything we need clearly from the actions. The film doesn’t force anything whatsoever and lets those moments of movement and silence to fill in the gaps for yourself. It allows you to breath enough and gives you enough story to keep you going.
The clear message of the film is that no one can tell you who you are and it’s something that you have to figure out for yourself, no matter the path or the struggle or the length of time it takes you to get there.