Moonlight Screen 50 articles



Moonlight Poster
  • What is film but a medium that asks us to experience worlds — physical and emotional — beyond our own? It’s when it brings us to tears or makes us overflow with joy that film has the possibility of slipping past our defenses to challenge how we perceive the world and maybe even ourselves. The way to accomplish this isn’t to try and tell a story that aims to speak to everyone but crafting one that traffics in specificity. No recent film does that with greater success than Moonlight.

  • The Oscar-winning film Moonlight gives an impression throughout of being tinged with the color blue. Already in the beginning, after a blue car, its blue interior, white T-shirt and pillow tinted blue by morning light, blue sneaker soles, and blue plastic trash cans at the beach, comes an extraordinary scene of a black man holding a black boy’s body on top of the ocean, the camera lowered until it is fractionally submerged, enclosing the baptism by swimming lesson in pale sky and rolling water.

  • Chiron is the perfect embodiment of the blank protagonist, an archetype whose passiveness challenges the very nature of protagonism (proto = first, main, most important; agon = challenge, struggle, dispute) but who has become especially common in the art house world. Projected against the landscape of Rousseau’s philosophy, this blankness borders the ideal of “the natural man”, the uncorrupted savage . . . , which matches the latent impression that the boy is self-raised.

  • Its delicate humanism; Laxton’s hauntingly intimate photography; the brilliant performances of the cast; Barry Jenkins’ masterful direction—this has all stayed with me since I reluctantly walked left the theatre on that balmy Saturday afternoon. The ushers had politely made their presence known as soon as the end credits began, but I was not ready to leave the cinema just yet... I wanted to listen closely to Nicholas Britell’s lush“End Credits Suite” as it played out the film’s closing credits.

  • Jenkins looks into the chasm of a damaged soul and demands from viewers not only an acknowledgement of universality, but a reckoning of acceptance. By film's end, Black has the bravery to finally voice his desires after years of stifled muteness, and the reciprocation that he receives in return feels like nothing less than a miracle. Yet, this catharsis is undercut by a lingering truth: that many people are allowed to take such a miracle for granted.

  • The most admirable thing about the film is its commitment to intimacy; this strength is manifested in the skilful proximity of James Laxton's cinematography and the small-scale parameters of the storyline... Moonlight's uniqueness as a film about a queer black youth cannot be overstated, and it skillfully filters rhetoric through realism.

  • The Liberty City of [Jenkins and McCraney's] childhood was at once a place that buckled under the rages of crack but also, defiantly, maintained a cultural richness and sense of community that nurtured and inspired the two men — it was a place that both contained and freed them. And it is the way that “Moonlight” captures that tension — between the beauty and the struggle — that makes the film so powerful.

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    Film Comment: Amy Taubin
    January 03, 2017 | January/February 2017 Issue (p. 46)

    Thanks to Jenkins's direction, the amazingly responsive actors, the expressive soundtrack, and particularly James Laxton's cinematography, these moments are deeply immersive—we experience them, as Chiron does, with all our senses. They become indelible in our memories as in his, and carry him and us forward to the final section's transcendent meeting in the diner between the adult Chiron and the adult Kevin, taking a chance on love.

  • This is how a film of such crucial, culture-shifting specificity manages to be so overwhelmingly universal. As a portrait of masculinity, Moonlight is both unflinching and empathetic. And as an exploration of inchoate desire, it is wise, generous, and cuts very, very deep.

  • Barry Jenkins never breaks with traditional realism entirely. This results in people like me initially misreading the film, and we'll all need to be more careful. (We'll have time; I think this is going to be a modern classic.) However, it is the poetry that reflects liberation, and the success of Moonlight seems to hold out the promise of more African-American poetic narrative cinema.

  • A film so beautiful in story, struggle, love, connection, danger, drugs, race, masculinity, black masculinity, and one made more poetic by cinematography and performance, particularly by Trevante Rhodes, that one leaves the theaters with images and thoughts lingering.

  • What is remarkable about Moonlight is that Jenkins and playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney have crafted a film which has this place so deep in its bones that it strikes me as impossible to separate any aspect of its form from the context which produced it, and which is in turn reflected through the frame of its moving and fascinating central figure, Chiron.

  • It’s difficult to describe just why this film is so unique, so powerful. The plot sounds like an ABC Afterschool Special. It is Jenkins’ handling of it – the mood he deliberately creates – his understanding that silence can be as loud as dialogue, and far more eloquent – that really makes the film. I rarely say this, but Moonlight is not like anything else. The final scene was so quiet and powerful that I don’t think I breathed the entire time.

  • Even battered, neglected kids have lives. Chiron has none. The movie never leaves his side for nearly two hours, yet somehow never shows him expressing an interest in anything apart from warding off the next potential blow. People seem awestruck that the three actors who play him create a seamless performance, but the degree of difficulty is ridiculously low, because there's zilch that's specific about him apart from this one pitiable element.

  • Jenkins' coming-of-age story has a symphonic structure and a poetic heart, plus some of the most arresting images and heartbreaking moments of this movie year.

  • Fully deserving of its ecstatic reviews. Unconventional and so sharply sensitive that we have to slow down and breathe with it, or go back with it. There is an air sometimes of early Terence Davies movies on childhood, but the triumph of “Moonlight” is how specific it is to a milieu as perceived at various ages. The three actors who play the lead male character all somehow seem to be the same person, and this is one of many things here that seems miraculous.

  • The film makes a swerve on the broad and compulsively historical clichés that usually frame American filmmaking about Black people by being more historical, by looking so closely that a new kind of filmic history emerges... Moonlight’s sublimity (and it is sublime) depends on the specificity of its setting in a city at once typical of US race relations in the age of neoliberalism and particular as a site of transnational, African diasporic, and queer utopian dreaming.

  • The film’s great strength is the way it confronts reality head-on, with cinematic beauty but no mythmaking. Palpably indebted to films by Hou Hsiao-hsien and Terrence Malick, Jenkins and his cinematographer, James Laxton, nonetheless invent a Miami photography all their own, dark blue, yellow, and pink — then orange and brown when the film movies to Atlanta.

  • Chief among Moonlight's many groundbreaking properties is its ability to engulf the viewer in an ocean of empathy for the main character as he grows up. Throughout, it's as if we can't breathe watching this growth. Jenkins does such justice to the complexities of Little's life story that to call his desire _gay_ and his condition _closeted_ would mean to have misunderstood absolutely everything.

  • No one could accuse it of inertia. It is as if a door were kicked open in his cinema, marking a giant leap forward in narrative sophistication and visual storytelling. It is one of the few films of the year worth being genuinely excited about.

  • Intimacy is Jenkins’ accomplishment. But, what we’re intimate with is another consciousness so totally and truthfully created, that we’re looking outward and inward simultaneously. That’s why Jenkins’ work is profound. Chiron is us and we are him, asking our self, “Who am I? Where do I fit?”

  • Bathed in blue and anguish, Mr. Jenkins’s elegiac film traces a single life across three chapters. There’s much to love and admire about this haunting movie, including its lapidary visuals. Here, every moment — light flooding a darkened room, an oceanic baptism and a halo of shampoo crowning the head of an abandoned child — speaks more eloquently than most of its dialogue, though the words are very fine, too.

  • Many others have rightly identified the myriad things that Barry Jenkins' film does well, and in most respects I'd agree: the acting is uniformly excellent, the look of the film is beautiful, and it's an interesting, sensitive study of personal identity and its formation through a combination of interior and exterior factors. Yet, these formidable strengths notwithstanding, the storytelling is - alternately or sometimes at once - clichéd and overly neat.

  • Moonlight, one of the best movies there is about childhood, brings its viewers down into the tangible, living detail of these scenes of instruction. The film doesn’t so much follow a boy through the stages of his development as drop us into the moments of his formation. These are the scenes that he will see his whole life, as memories or as nightmares or as blind repetition.

  • The script is a bit sketchy... but by leaving some blanks, like Juan’s disappearance from the film, it actually feels more like real life. This film is utterly mesmerizing—I was aware that I was falling under a spell from which I probably should have kept a small distance, but I couldn’t help but float along on this vast ocean of feeling, merging with the characters and their surroundings in rare communion. Moonlight is a prayer for humanity; let’s hope we can all find it in our hearts to listen.

  • It's a film that believes in people, specifically characters who inspire deep wells of empathy in each other... Through their eyes we see how patience and resilience can alter one's perspective for the better, cutting through multiple levels of struggle that can't be resolved easily. If our divided America is looking in the mirror trying to figure out what the future looks like, Moonlight reflects a complex portrait of compassion and community that still feels humanly possible.

  • Jenkins has realized his ambitions, embodying a personal sensibility in an uninhibitedly emotional experience that’s as much a matter of cinematic invention as of anguished sensitivity to his characters’ pain and drive... It’s as much a marvel of observation as of ideas, of substance as of style, of intimacy as of reserve. Even though it comes near the beginning of Jenkins’s career, it feels like the fulfillment of an inner world that has been under pressure within him for a very long time.

  • The film moves with elliptical grace between pivotal moments in Chiron’s life from childhood to adolescence to adulthood... He’s a man of few words at every stage, but he’s brimming with so many conflicted emotions—desire, shame, fear, love—that it physically hurts to watch him struggle so deeply to simply be. This is a film that doesn’t so much demand to be seen but rather oozes with a desire to be felt, the images, sounds, and textures taking on a kind of implicit, all-enveloping eroticism.

  • It's surpassingly gorgeous. The depth-of-field camera work and luscious soundtrack give the movie atmosphere. You can feel the humidity. You can also feel the hormones roiling this kid, who is desperate to connect them to someone, then desperate to bury them. But he can’t. And that’s because — and this is important to say because it’s _so rare_ — Jenkins knows Chiron is a human being. Not because he’s a sex machine.

  • Did I ever imagine, during my anxious, closeted childhood, that I’d live long enough to see a movie like “Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins’s brilliant, achingly alive new work about black queerness? Did any gay man who came of age, as I did, in the era of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and aids, think he’d survive to see a version of his life told onscreen with such knowledge, unpredictability, and grace?

  • It devastated me on a level I’m often unwilling to discuss with my friends. Moonlight went into my eyes, got into my bloodstream, because I felt my heart-rate rising and falling while watching it, and then it passed through that barrier into my memories, the ones I’m always trying to forget but never do.

  • To live is to not bury your desires and disassociate from the world. I felt confronted by the film in a way that I wish I had when I was younger. Not because I needed a warning of what I was doing was not healthy, as I still feel like I needed that time for self-realization. It was because I felt like at even a certain intersection of differences, Chiron is the perfect imperfect queer hero for me then as much now.

  • You can’t always read people’s hearts just by looking at their faces. There is surprise, and risk, in getting to know who a person really is. To see this high-stakes gamble played out onscreen, like the opening of a flower captured in stop-motion photography, is one of the greatest gifts filmmakers and actors can give us. Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight is such a calm yet precise piece of filmmaking that you’re barely prepared for its shimmering, quietly sensational ending.

  • This is the story of a self being buried beneath layers of hurt. It could have been schematic, were the acting and writing not so natural and alive. Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney's play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, the movie's color palette is as evocative of the beauty of bodies and nature as that title.

  • Dialogue is spare in Moonlight. There's little exposition and no big reveal in which a lost boy smites his forehead and cries, "Dear Lord, I'm that guy!" Instead, as the grief Chiron has kept at bay all his life gushes forth at long last, we see that the drama we've been watching all along is not just (not even, really) a coming-out story, but something at once more ambitious and more generous—an inquiry into masculinity itself.

  • In a perfect world, the arrival of Moonlight wouldn’t be very special at all, but it has been heralded, rightly, as a groundbreaking work. In the way it dares to make a gay African-American man not only the center of its narrative but its guiding emotional perspective, Moonlight feels distinct and new, but it’s also remarkable in form, coasting on a unique internal rhythm.

  • A question is posed to the main character of Barry Jenkins's wondrous, superbly acted new film, Moonlight: "Who is you, man?" The beauty of Jenkins's second feature radiates from the way that query is explored and answered: with specifics and expansiveness, not with foregone conclusions.

  • Factor in Jenkins's visual poetry—the color blue is almost a character—and the experience becomes transcendent. A haunting piece of high art, this drama moves beyond narrative, loosely connecting key events and leaving broad swaths of the protagonist's journey to the imagination. Cinematographer James Laxton (Youth) renders Miami as a wonderland of magic and danger, and the nuanced performances of the leads provide the honest emotion needed to ground the operatic material.

  • Jenkins gets us so wrapped up in Chiron’s consecutive hard knocks that by the end we’re as bruised as he is, and the salve, modest as it is, brings on the tears.

  • Maleness in the black community, as well as the cruelty of the poverty cycle, is astutely observed through a very particular story driven by a restless camera, powerful music, and flawed participants affectionately drawn and fully recognizable. It was originally a theater piece by Tarell Alvin McCraney focusing on a young, bullied gay black fellow in Miami’s harsh Liberty City area of housing projects. He and director Jenkins grew up there: There’s a rare authenticity to every element.

  • A dreamy meditation on love, desire and identity, Moonlight is boldly expressive, filled with soulful music and intoxicating images, and punctuated by moments of quiet transcendence. Poised to be one of fall’s breakouts, it couldn’t be timelier, arriving as it does in year defined by protest and violence. Without even trying, the movie refracts what’s going on, but instead of politics, it offers heartfelt poetry—which may be the season’s biggest surprise.

  • While there's a clear advancement in not only the filmmaking, but in the rhythms of the writing, between that 2008 debut and this long-awaited follow-up, Moonlight spans too broad a narrative to always capitalize on its director's facility for small-scale drama. Still, when the film does eventually settle into its sneakily moving final section, it excels with all the expectation of a filmmaker who's had nearly a decade to contemplate how he could do the last thing that he did even better.

  • Often shot in roving shallow-focus that registers the characters’ tensions toward their own desires, Moonlight combines gestures and movements of striking intimacy with unfortunately didactic scenes and rather pat resolutions. (It sets out to frankly challenge stereotypes of masculinity and race, only to back off and settle for a therapeutic embrace.) Flaws and all, it lingers in the mind with the melancholy languor of a short poem made delicately flesh.

  • Under Jenkins’s empathetic eye, their reconciliation is more than just a decades-in-the-making inevitability, but an event that signals a character’s willingness to finally give into the emotional side that he had kept wrapped up under a mask of machismo. It’s a consummation of not just their love, but of the emotional richness of this humane and deeply moving film.

  • Jenkins aspires to something much greater than lazy box-ticking. He skilfully grants as much attention to the dazzlingly beautiful visual style as he does to the uniformly excellent performances. Form and performance work hand in hand to produce a relentless celebration of aesthetic beauty... Unfortunately this intensely thought-out visual style can often feel distracting.

  • Though Jenkins casts three different actors in the role of Chiron, the consistency of the performances that he pulls from his young actors feels radical. From their body language to their verbal tics and downcast eyes, each version of Chiron feels as real a continuation of the character as an old friend growing up before your own eyes.

  • Everything about Chiron seems to summon forth and express an entire world of feeling. This extraordinarily intimate movie, beautifully directed by Barry Jenkins (making his first feature since 2008’s “Medicine for Melancholy”), works in much the same way. It observes Chiron’s silence, respects it and to some degree absorbs it. In Jenkins’ hands, the cold, mechanical apparatus of the camera becomes nothing less than a conduit for human empathy.

  • It might simply be that Jenkins is better at plotting an ambitious, conceptual narrative tryptic, complete with onscreen titles and numbered sections, than he is at filling it with more fully realized characters. Whatever the case may be, Jenkins can certainly direct. An awards-season player that knows what it is, Moonlight is a calling-card film that ought to fill up a lot of people’s dance cards in the years to come.

  • This lyrical achievement — from a longtime Telluride programmer and venue manager — would never work in episodic format. It uses the power of filmic storytelling in a targeted way that *only* works as a movie: It’s a narrative of small, expressionistic moments that combine into an emotional whole.

  • It revels in the elevation of everyday experience, transforming time's passing into a series of rites of passage, the commonplace into the iconic. These are the kinds of moments and images that critics love to champion as "universal," but in practice this particular universe tends to belong on screen to the white, straight- middle class. With self-assured elegance, Moonlight might also reside in black communities and be borne out by black bodies, in a time when such depictions are still rare.

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