Moonlight movie review: The story and setting is so universal, it’ll break your heart

Moonlight movie review: A beautiful search towards finding sexual identity, love and hope.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi | Published:February 17, 2017 6:28 pm
Moonlight movie review: The Oscar nominated film is about a little boy and the monsters he has to face down to become a man. Moonlight movie review: The Oscar nominated film is about a little boy and the monsters he has to face down to become a man.

Moonlight movie cast: Trevante Rhodes, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Patrick Decile, Andre Holland, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert, Jharrell Jerome, Jaden Piner
Moonlight movie director: Barry Jenkins
Moonlight movie rating: 4.5 stars

Oscar season is upon us, and the buzz we’ve been hearing for La La Land continues unabated, but here’s the film which should win everything, in an ideal world.

We’ll see who the top Academy prizes go to in a week, and they may well be gathered up by that frothy musical, but for now I urge you to run, not walk, towards ‘Moonlight’, a film which takes you right inside the heart of the black experience with a breathtaking lack of artifice. And packs such an emotional wallop that you are left with eyes and heart welling up.

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The fact that it is based on a play (‘In Midnight Black Boys Look Blue’), leads it to be filmed in three clear acts as we are led through the life of the protagonist: as a boy, he’s called Little, as a teen, he’s Chiron, and as an adult, we hear him being addressed, simply, as Black.

The crime-infested, drugs-ridden face of the American housing projects has become a pop culture cliché. But in the way ‘Moonlight’ is written and performed, the setting and the story, both so specific and so universal, break your heart all over again.

We first come upon Little as he being chased by bullies. He is struck dumb by terror: if he is caught, he may not survive. He lucks into a mentor (Ali), but the fear accompanies him into adolescence, where he continues battling bullying and the increasing deterioration of his crack addict mum (Harris; marvellous), with the only friend he has (Holland), fading out of sight.

Watch | Moonlight | Official Trailer

 

When we leave him, Black has turned into a man with hardened edges, but he possesses something that all the misery and deprivation hasn’t stamped out—a sense of self. That may be all he has for breaking out of the ghetto, which has, in a sense, never left him. That, and the return of the childhood friend (Holland), who may turn out to be more. We hope, urgently, that he does find a way to heal, because if he is not, we are all doomed. Just the tiniest niggle, though: where are the white people in this film? Do lives not overlap at all? Or did the filmmaker not want to deflect any attention?

Moonlight is about a little boy and the monsters he has to face down to become a man. It is about being masculine and searching for sexual identity and being able to find love. And, ultimately, it is about hope, which we can hand out with grace, to each other. As Chiron’s mother says: “You are my only. And I am your only”.