Moonlight review: confident storytelling, vision and heart

Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali in Moonlight.
Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali in Moonlight.

THERE are precious few films nowadays that aim for subtlety, take their time to observe human behaviour and get to the core of their characters with patient exploration.

Moonlight is one of those films that come along every few years that, after we have been fatigued with hyper-edited action films and flatulence-laden Adam Sandler films, remind us of the art and beauty of cinema and what it can achieve.

The life of confused, disconnected Miami slum resident Chiron is broken up into three chapters – child, teenager and adult – in which he is bullied by school kids, shown kindness by crack-dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali) and struggles with his neglectful drug-addicted mother (Naomie Harris) and his own sexuality.

At each age he has an encounter with Kevin, which highlights his disorientation about his sexuality and masculinity.

Deliberately paced, admirably patient, sensitively handled and stunningly realised, Moonlight is a thing of rare beauty.

Despite surface level similarities to Boyz n the Hood (1991) and Menace II Society (1993), there are several ideas and themes running throughout that takes it in a different direction.

The most fascinating aspect is witnessing how a soft and sensitive boy growing up in a thuggish part of town where you are expected to be tough to survive grapples with his own identity and situation.

The actors playing Chiron at the three different stages of his life turn in phenomenal performances, as do their supporting cast mates.

Being released during Oscar season (it recently picked up eight nominations), it will likely be several months at least before we see another film with such confidence in storytelling, vision and, most importantly, heart.


Moonlight (M)

Directed by: Barry Jenkins

Starring: Mahershala Ali, Shariff Earp, Ashton Sanders

Five stars

Review by Julian Wright

In cinemas now