The plot of Moonlight is broken up into three parts, each one revolving around Chiron’s life and journey to discover who he is. We begin his story as a child, known as Little (Alex Hibbert). He’s got a lot on his plate, dealing with a drug-addicted mother (Naomi Harris) and being bullied day in and day out. It’s in this story that he meets Juan (Mahershala Ali) and Teresa (Janelle Monáe), a young couple willing to help Little get back up on his feet. The second story continues Chiron’s story, now played by Ashton Sanders. He finds himself attempting to deal with his sexuality, all before coming together for a third and final story that details the consequences of earlier decisions, Chiron now played by Trevante Rhodes.
Through all its dark subject matter, Moonlight never manages to become cynical. It never looks down at any of these characters, merely delving into their background, their circumstances and their actions. Every decision these characters make, especially Chiron, has a build up. Everything they think has an explanation for its existence, the entire film leading up and shaping him into the man he ultimately becomes. Good or bad, you’ll have to wait and see, but no matter whether or not you agree with some of the actions character chooses to do, the brutal realism is not something you can fault.
Some of the best moments throughout are where the music takes control, aiding the soundless visuals into a cinematic orgasm of the highest degree. The cinematography alone propels this film into masterpiece territory, each shot able to convey power, treachery and deep character details that no words can describe. The score feels like a contemporary take on classic music, its infrequent appearances making it feel more impactful. A lot of the film is set to nothing but the sounds of the real world, or even silence, and I loved it. The sound design is excellent and believable, not just used as a necessary component, but as a unique element of the story. It’s treated with a lot more importance than other films do.
Let’s be honest though, the real standouts of Moonlight are the three actors chosen to take on the role of Chiron. Each adds a new take on the character. They each deliver a developed and evolved Chiron, able to retain the same mannerisms and personality within each iteration of his character. The three story arcs tells a different, interconnected and tonally focused story that play into one another. Each actor is able to bring something different and exciting to the table. They’re all so good in so many different ways, no real standout anywhere. They’re all the standout, making this Boyhood-esque vision come to life in the best way possible.
To sum up, Moonlight is vital viewing. It deals with certain topics that have been dealt with before, but it deals with them in a new, important and powerful way, telling its story like never before. Moonlight is not a perfect movie, but it’s damn near close, and the more I let it sink in, the deeper I fall in love with it.
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