The multi-Oscar nominated Moonlight arrives in UK cinemas to similar acclaim seen stateside. Thomas Brownridge takes a closer look at the film and finds plenty to like.
The awards season are upon us and here in the UK, we get the nominees by February. Moonlight is the last released film for the Academy Awards to be released here in the UK. It has eight Oscar nominations, six Golden Globes nominations and four BAFTA nominations ranging through Best Motion Picture, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Cinematography and many more.
Moonlight follows the life of Chiron as a young boy, nicknamed Little (Alex R. Hibbert), to a young man Chiron (Ashton Sanders) and progressing to a man Black (Trevante Rhodes).
Moonlight is cut up into three acts.
The first act follows the young boy Little when he is being bullied by other school pupils and finds out his mother is a junkie. When hiding from the bullies he gets found by Juan (Mahershala Ali) who takes him under his wing and becomes a role model to Little.
There is a black to colour transition showing the different chapter. Which leads onto the second part of Moonlight. This is Chiron when he is in secondary school as a teenager. He is again bullied and tries to comes to terms with his mother’s addiction. Chiron still sees his role model family. He is also confused about his sexuality, typical of a teenager going through puberty. Eventually, we see the end of this chapter with him standing up for himself to the main bully that keeps pestering him through his school years.
The last chapter is the adult version of Chiron and Little who has been in and out of jail but found success in the business he is in with a nice house and car. However, he is still confused about his sexuality and what to do with these thoughts. This is where he goes back to an old friend for a talk in a café where the friend works.
Moonlight, touches on some of the key issues that are surrounding the United States with the newly elected President Trump. This is a very meaningful undertone to the film. The whole production is done with African Americans and the narrative of a homosexual. These types of issues shouldn’t be tiptoed around film; it should be made to educate and entertain audiences. Thankfully Moonlight doesn’t tiptoe around these issues, it helps bring them to light and fully shows us the true impact of what it is like being an African American in the United States through this narrative.
The composer for the score is Nicholas Britell, who worked on The Big Short and was a producer on 2014 film Whiplash. The score resembles the life of the main character, in the first act and the beginning of the second act it contains strong piano melodies which resemble the raw purity of the young man. In the ending of the second act and through the third act it is Hip-Hop and Rap music that resembles the “gangster” persona taken on by the character. This is done in a way that sees the growth of the character and the different sections of life that he goes through.
Visually, Moonlight is stunning. It is shot through production cameras, go-pros and handheld camera footage to represent the raw emotion towards the characters. The blue-hued cinematography enhances the colour of the skin of the characters, which was said in the film “Running around, catching a lot of light”. “In moonlight, black boys look blue”. “You’re blue”. “That’s what I’m gonna call you: ‘Blue’.” This is also seen on the posters with the different tones of blue cut into three parts showing the three chapters of the story.
From score, cinematography and performances to its contemporary conflicts evocative of the era in which it finds itself, Moonlight, although not perfect, is a striking, memorable piece of work. The first and second act is brilliant and gripping, having emotions flying around through happiness to angry in a split second. However, the third act doesn’t flow with the rest of the film. It is a disappointing way to finish off the enticing beginning and middle. However, overall it is a very successful and meaningful film that touches on issues that are being talked about and popularised through social media and even parliament.