Oscar season has happened like it always does. It is usually wrong on the big awards: Best Actress for example, yes I am still mad and will continue to be so until next week when I will have forgotten all about the awards. There is always the same conversation around the Oscars, are they still relevant, are they too white, why do we still care about Oscars, are they still needed? Well, regardless the Oscars did happen, and the winner of best film was Moonlight directed and written by Barry Jenkins, so I suppose that I have to review that now. Okay? Okay.
Split into three parts Moonlight follows Chiron, as a child, a teenager and a man. We see his struggles with sexuality, his drug addict mother, school bullies and his own choices.
I saw this film after it won Best Picture at the Oscars, the Baftas and the Golden Globes, so going into this movie I had some high expectations. However now that I have seen it, Moonlight’s awards are thoroughly deserved, not only is it a highly important film both for LGBT and Black cinema, but it is also a heartbreaking tale of mistakes and unrequited love.
Firstly, if you are going into this movie expecting loud speeches about how a character is feeling, then you have come to the wrong place. Moonlight conveys a lot of its information through subtle looks and long silences full of quiet soliloquies.
I feel bad mentioning anyone specifically by name, because everyone does a fantastic job and no one shines above the others, which is absolutely wonderful and makes the film more cohesive and real. But, Alex Hibbert and Ashton Sanders as Chiron as a child and a teenager respectively, convey so much through their downcast eyes it is remarkable. The same can be said of Mahershala Ali, whose drug dealer with a heart of gold imparts so much character in his few short scenes you weep with him.
Narratively and visually the film enhances the performances. The film has a documentary aesthetic that enhances the visceral nature of the film. However, interspersed with moments of quiet artistry that speaks volumes about the state of the characters. It seems, for the most part, to avoid overt drama, glossing over the death of a major character and skipping out Chiron’s prison sentence and transformation into a drug dealer. But this technique allows the themes and characters of the film to come to the forefront.
It reminded me a lot of the european kitchen sink dramas like the Belgian The Kid and his Bike. With its similar aesthetics and subject matter. That is another thing that I need to say, the subject matter of Moonlight is highly important. While this may sound flippant, it is not in anyway, we have seen the struggle of poor African Americans who fight a system that won’t let them win. But what we haven’t seen is how that group treats another group within itself, and that is where Moonlight shines, we see how difficult it is to be a homosexual. School kids and even his own mother torment Chiron for his sexuality so badly that he is forced to uphold this facade of exaggerated masculinity. We feel that he cannot truly be himself, and that is the greatest tragedy of the film; not only is he forced into a life of crime thanks to one mistake, but he cannot even be true to himself as a gay man.
Moonlight is a film that deserves all the praise that it is getting. It comes together with the best possible performances from its actors, the best possible cinematography, the best possible editing, direction, production design, which all contribute to the best movie of 2017.