Moonlight (2016) Review

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Summary: A chronicle of the childhood, adolescence and burgeoning adulthood of a young black man growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
Pros:
Cast and Characters. We spend the most time with Chiron but thanks to him meeting others, the viewers get to meet them as well. The characters in this film are acted so well, everything is so understated and subtle. They feel like real people.
  • Chiron.
    • Alex R. Hibbert as Little. When we first meet Little, he is running away from bullies. Juan manages to find him, since Little won’t speak, he takes him to his house, feeds him and that sparks a friendship. Alex Hibbert starts off us with this character and he does such a great job setting the tone for this character. He keeps his head down, keeps his lips pursed like he doesn’t like the fact that people keep asking him to speak up. He looks like he has secrets. I thought he did very well.
    • Ashton Sanders as Chiron. I think he was my favorite out of the three who play the character. Being that he’s a teenager, this is usually a tough time in a person’s life as they are growing out of childhood and on the verge of adulthood. Things change. His mother is deeper into her addiction and he’s being bullied at school. Ashton Sanders is so good! He maintains what Alex started, the awkward walking, keeping his head down, the pursing of the lips like he has something to say but can’t say it. His confusion at his sexuality shows in his face later in this particular section and I think Ashton handles all of that very well.
    • Trevante Rhodes as Black. First of all, he is fine lol. Now Chiron is an adult, he is a drug dealer in Atlanta. He still says arms length away from others, just does what he has too. He seems have stayed the same into an adult but this time, instead of hating drugs from an arms length away, he hates them up close. He has a conversation with his mother and he ends up reconecting with an old friend. Trevante Rhodes also manages to maintain the same way about him the other two did, the same type of walk, keeping his head down, the quiet way of talking. He doesn’t purse his lips much anymore (I mean how can he with that stupid grill in his mouth) but everything is the same.
  • Mahershala Ali as Juan. He rightfully won that Oscar. He is drug dealer, who meets Little while he’s running from bullies. He’s kind to him, tries to find where he lives but as Little won’t tell him, he takes him home and cares for him. Even as time goes on, he forms a friendship with him, teaches him to swim and how to make his own path. I really like Mahershala Ali, he knows how to be very subtle and Juan is a man who has to do what he has to do in order to live his life, but when he’s not on the streets, he’s a different person. It’s great the way he takes in Chiron and teaches him many things. His story about living in Cuba and moonlight, I thought came full circle by the end.
  • Naomie Harris as Paula. Deserved her nomination. I read that she filmed her scenes in three days and it does not show. When we first see her, she doesn’t look like she does drugs but it’s easy to see the downward spiral. Each time we see her, it’s a different point in her life, when Chiron is a child, she seems to be abusive and angry at him, as a teenager, she’s a crack addict and only gives him attention for drug money and as an old woman, well things are different. Naomie Harris is such a great actress, she plays each version of this woman so well, it’s almost scary to see the change. She also made me cry as an adult.
  • Janelle Monae as Theresa. Definitely a supporting role, but she’s great and contagious. She is Juan’s girlfriend and becomes close with Chiron as she tries to get him to talk comfortably with her, even though he may not do that as a child, he definitely spends a lot more time with her as a teenager. She is what his mother isn’t and it’s clear to see that she loves him and he loves her. Janelle Monae is so likable in this role, the sassiness, her strength creates such a great supporting character.
  • Kevin
    • André Holland as Adult Kevin. He reaches out to Black, he is now a Chef in a dinner in Miami and life hasn’t gone according to plan but he is content for the most part. He and Black have a conversation, they learn more about each other as adults. Kevin does most of the talking and it’s quite interesting to watch their interaction. I felt like Andre Holland was a bit miscast in the role, he seemed to old to play this role, Black couldn’t be more than 25 and Andre seemed much older. Perhaps it was a well thought out choice due to what his life was like. He did a good job though.
    • Jharrel Jerome as Teen Kevin. He called Chiron “black” and I wouldn’t say they friends like they were when they were kids, but ya know teenage boys. He talks up being a ladies man, though I think he was just doing it on purpose, and later he and Chiron have a nice conversation. However, he us forced to choose a side when Chiron’s bullies want to “haze” him. I liked him, probably in the same way I liked Ashton Sanders. He was charismatic and kind of likable, he played teenage Kevin the way I would think a kid like him would grow into. Seems to be well off, used to getting his way and no one messes with him. Yeah, good job Jharrel (fun fact: he will be in the film adaptation of Walter Dean Myer’s Monster).
    • Jaden Piner as Child KevinCons. He is Little’s best friend, he’s small like Little but unlike Little, he uses it to his advantage and makes himself seem big. It seems like he comes from a better off family. He teases Little but he also is someone that Little obviously looks up too. Jaden Piner is adorable, he reminds me of Journey Smullet-Bell, like her twin brother (when she was a child). Some child actors can be good and some can be really bad and I think he was in the middle.
Tenderness. I think this film has a lot of tender moments between characters which I thought was beautiful and it isn’t always romantic tenderness. It’s two characters, or even three, who care so much about each other that they created this bond that it’s so easy to feel from the screen. I think it’s great, especially when at times black people can be shown as being sexual beings when it comes to love/romance and this didn’t make a big deal out of it.
Subtle. I liked the fact that a lot of things are shown or discussed in a subtle way. Nothing is made a big deal out of, it feels human.
The Transitions. At first, I was confused because it felt like the chapter for Little just ended, but I noticed that it was a pattern and each pattern was the same but a different color to signify a new time period. I thought it was quite unique.
The ending. I do think it comes full circle, at least in the very last shot we see. We hear Juan talk about it in the beginning and then the way the film ends I was like, wow that’s so awesome.
Cons:
Questions. I wouldn’t really make this be against the film because it’s probably an art choice, but considering the way the film is edited, we don’t know what happened in between those times when Chiron grows up. It leaves a lot of questions and it’s kind of frustrating, especially when it’s referenced but there isn’t really an explanation. I like the showing and not telling so much but when it’s not there at all, I want to know! Tell me!
Cliche. This isn’t really a terrible thing but I do think that outside of the way the film is told, and the acting, I do think characters like these aren’t necessarily new and fresh. We’ve seen them before.
Overall, I loved this film. It’s amazing. I had minor problems with it and as soon as it was over, I knew and wanted it to win the Oscar for Best Picture. I know a lot of people don’t like it, or refuse to see it due the nature of the film, but I think it’s important that a film like this was made because this does represent people, even men in the Black community. Besides, it may not apply to your life, but it’s a wonderfully made and well acted film.
Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars. 
Have you seen Moonlight? Now that it’s won Best Picture at the Oscars are you more interested or not interested? Let me know in the comments below. Don’t forget to comment, like and follow this blog!
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