Poster of Moonlight

Moonlight (Film Review) – A Subtle, Slow-Burn That Pays Off

Moonlight is a drama directed by Barry Jenkins and stars Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders, Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali. The story of the film focuses on the life of an African-American boy called Chiron. The three acts of the film lead us to follow him through three different stages of his life; as a child, a teenager and an adult.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Moonlight

This film has received a lot of critical acclaim since it premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September 2016. As a result, Moonlight has been on my radar for a while, especially as the story and how people marvelled at the way it was told made me really excited for what was said to be a very unique film. Moreover, praise towards the performances of Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris bolstered my anticipation for this film even more.

Mahershala Ali in Moonlight

My Thoughts on Moonlight

In the end, I liked Moonlight and there are a lot of things to admire about it. For one, Mahershala Ali is great in his supporting role and he single-handedly carried the first act (i. Little). In fact, I would argue that the film gets progressively better with each act. This is because the second act (ii. Chiron) builds upon what was set up in the first act and develops Chiron as a character while the third act (iii. Black) gives us the pay-off.

It is simple yet effective story-telling which itself was very minimalist and personal. At times, I felt like I was intruding on private conversations and throughout Moonlight, we gain insight into lives and experiences which have not received widespread attention before this time. For that, I give Moonlight a lot of credit for breaking new ground.

Andre Holland in Moonlight

I also appreciated the deep themes that were interwoven into the story such as sexuality, drug abuse and poverty which give Moonlight the depth it needs to succeed on the level that it does. The performances by the cast deserve praise too. As I previously said, Mahershala Ali was great and Naomie Harris was also very good. When you consider that Harris filmed her scenes in just three days, it makes it all the more remarkable that she gave such a haunting performance.

As you can see, Moonlight deserves the praise it has received and, after its achievement of winning Best Picture at the Oscars in the most dramatic fashion in Oscar history, I hope more people will watch it. Yet, I do feel that the slow pacing of the film, which does limit its rewatchability, will mean that not everyone will appreciate Moonlight for what it is. When you scratch the surface, you will find Moonlight to be a very deep film that is necessary viewing.

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