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moonlight-6Moonlight (2016)

Directed by Barry Jenkins

Screenplay by Barry Jenkins

Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney

Starring: Mahershala Ali, Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monáe

Chiron (Hibbert, Sanders, Rhodes) has struggled to survive the rough streets of Miami. Throughout childhood and into his adult years he’s continually sought to find out who he really is.

moonlight-7This film is one of the nine Best Picture nominees for the 2017 Academy Awards. The movie was written and directed by Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy). Part of the story was taken from the semi-autobiographical play by Tarell Alvin McCraney (Day N Night Out). The movie uses Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders (Straight Outta Compton), and Trevante Rhodes (Westworld) to portray Chiron, the main character of the film. The cast also features Mahershala Ali (The Place Beyond the Pines), Naomie Harris (Spectre), and Janelle Monáe (Hidden Figures). For his work Barry Jenkins was nominated for Best Director.

moonlight-13This is a fascinating story of self-discovery. Using the earlier work of Tarell Alvin McCraney, Barry Jenkins was able to craft a wonderful script. The story is absorbing from the very beginning and heartbreaking throughout. In explaining this film, it’s difficult to label it. Perhaps it’s a tragedy or a drama, or maybe something deeper. Throughout the movie there are so many emotions. The writing does a wonderful job making every moment count. There isn’t a single scene in the film that feels unnecessary. The movie also utilizes limited dialogue to allow every word to matter. The moments of quiet contemplation definitely work to build the emotions in the story. The script for this film is a winner. Jenkins and McCraney share an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

moonlight-14The acting in this movie is wonderful. Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes each deliver powerful performances in their shared lead role. The incredible part of the movie is the way that all three of these actors maintained the traits of the character. Each of the trio were able to communicate deep emotions without an excess of dialogue. The film also features strong performances by Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe, and Naomie Harris. Overall, this cast understood the material and worked together to bring out all of the powerful emotions of the story. For their work Mahershala Ali was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and Naomie Harris for Best Supporting Actress.

moonlight-11This film does not have the look of a big-budget production, but avoids looking like a documentary. The camera work takes full advantage of the unique locations in the Miami area. Cinematographer James Laxton (Tusk) did a wonderful job of creating a consistent visual tone. His work earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography. The film also benefits from great editing. The film seems to be free from any unnecessary length, much like the dialogue. Joi McMillon (Lemon) and Nat Sanders (Laggies) were nominated for Best Film Editing for their work. The movie also received a nomination for Best Original Score for the music composed by Nicholas Britell (The Big Short).

moonlight-10This film earned a total of eight Academy Award nominations and a wealth of critical praise. The story is painful, sometimes pushing into deep and dark aspects of life. The film also finds moments of redemption that are powerful and honest. This is not a light movie and may not appeal to anyone unwilling to feel uncomfortable at times. Fans of the stars of this movie should make the effort to see this one. The performances shouldn’t be missed. I give this one 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Rating: R

Running Time: 111 Minutes


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