A timeless story of human connection and self-discovery, Moonlight 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 neighborhood of Miami. Anchored by extraordinary performances from a tremendous ensemble cast, Moonlight is profoundly moving portrayal of the moments, people, and unknowable forces that shape our lives and make us who we are.
1080p, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.39:1 Aspect Ratio
2016, Rated R, 1 hour, 51 minutes
Starring: Mahershala Ali, Alex Hibbert, Janelle Monáe, Naomie Harris
Directed by: Barry Jenkins
Having seen how well Moonlight did at the Golden Globes, I immediately added it to my list of movies to watch. Serendipitously, I was offered the chance to review it, which I gladly took. The film chronicles three periods in the life of Chiron (pronounced Shay-RONE), an African American youth growing up in a difficult neighborhood in Miami. It opens with him as a roughly 9-year-old, moves into his life in high school, and then as a grown man at which point he’s moved to Atlanta. As a young boy, he’s picked on by the bigger kids, his mother is addicted to crack cocaine, and his father is not in the picture. He barely speaks, leaving us to believe he’s bottled up much pain and confusion.
Fate intervenes, however, when he meets Juan, a drug dealer but kind-hearted man who ends up becoming that missing father figure for a short time. Juan provides Chiron with some valuable lessons, as well as the influence he needs to counterbalance the neglect from his mother. Mahershala Ali is absolutely terrific in this role, leaving me disappointed that he didn’t appear in the other two acts. Their interaction provides a basis for who Chiron becomes later in his life.
Also introduced in the first act, Kevin is Chiron’s only true friend, and we also follow the relationship between the two throughout the film. He is seemingly the one kid that will stand up for Chiron and give him support. Their relationship becomes more complicated in the teenage years, culminating with the bullies forcing Kevin to beat up his friend. Chiron finally snaps and decides to stand up for himself, which defines who he becomes in the 3rd act.
However, beneath all the muscle and toughness he develops as an adult, the same pain and confusion are palpable. Chiron continues to struggle with his identity, and clearly yearns for support and love that he never received from his mother. When he receives a call from Kevin, who he had not spoken with in over 10 years, he is forced to revisit the agonizing memories from the end of his time in Miami. He decides to visit Kevin, and as they talk about what their lives have become, the subtext of their relationship hangs there, building uncomfortably until they finally address it.
If there is anything to criticize about the film, it is that there is not a traditional story that calls for some sort of resolution. Sure, there are pieces of his life that are resolved by the end, but the movie is more a chronicle of Chiron’s life to this point, and how he got there. Personally, I did not find this to be a bad thing. The superb performances and gut-wrenching themes were enough to hold my interest and provide a wonderful viewing experience. I really felt connected to the character by the end, and could understand the turmoil inside of him. As I mentioned above, my only real disappointment is not seeing Juan again in the story after the first act, but I suppose that too was part of what made Chiron who he became.
The Blu-Ray transfer of Moonlight was excellent. Presented in a 2.39:1 ratio, the gritty colors and hand held camerawork really conveyed the rough environment well. Lots of long takes that forgo cutting keep the viewer in the film and give it a great sense of realism. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track was terrific. I loved the score as it did a masterful job of weaving scenes together and provided an emotional backdrop for Chiron’s inner turmoil.
- Audio Commentary with Director Barry Jenkins
- "Ensemble of Emotion: The Making of Moonlight" Featurette
- "Poetry Through Collaboration: The Music of Moonlight" Featurette
- "Cruel Beauty: Filming in Miami" Featurette