Moonlight had a silent release. In the days leading up to, during, and post the 89th Academy Awards, however, it had a different reception. Made with an all-black cast, telling the story of a black gay man, Moonlight wasn’t a surprising entry into the Oscar-race. That it was a movie about two minorities was enough for the Academy to sing praises in its favor. But, after all, how is Moonlight? Is it worth all the hype and applauds?
First things first, Moonlight is wonderfully written. Divided into three chapters, each chronicling a stage of the protagonist’s life – childhood, teenage years and grown-up years – Moonlight sheds light on his weaknesses, inadequacies, strengths, his grey relationship with his drug-addict mother, the bond he begins to form, and eventually strengthen, with his mentor-figure Juan, his teenage years when he comes to terms with his sexuality and his grown up years when he tries to tie lose ends, make peace with his mom and a love long lost. As the caption for the film reads, it truly is the “story of a lifetime”.
One amazing thing about Moonlight is how self-assured it is. It never goes overboard. There’s no exaggerated melodrama. Each character is beautifully written. Camerawork is consistently first-rate.
And the performances are exceptional. Mahershala Ali won the Best Supporting Actor award for this film. Although I haven’t seen the performances of his competitors, I’m still not sure how I feel about his winning the award. The man was fantastic, no two ways at that, but this also isn’t a performance that’s hard to beat. Ashton Sanders delivers a convincing performance as the teen Chiron. Naomie Harris is pitch perfect as the mom having drug abuse issues.
All this said, Moonlight wasn’t a special film for me. There’s enough to admire and adore here, and the film as a whole is a wonderful watch, but I don’t see myself watching it again. Based on the unpublished play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose life the play and now the movie is based on, Moonlight gives me the feeling that it could be best read on paper.
I’m going with 3.5 out of 5!
PS: All images are YouTube captures.