Moonlight – **** OUT OF 4
Director-writer Barry Jenkins’ second feature follows a young, gay black man’s coming of age in Miami. Although the film feels autobiographical, it is actually based on a short unproduced play called “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by 2013 MacArthur “genius” grant winner Tarell Alvin McCraney. Barry Jenkins teamed up with McCraney and have screened their film to rave notices at Telluride and Toronto before a wider plat-formed release. It is not often I mention other critics’ reviews but this film is an exception. On the Rotten Tomatoes review site the film earns a 98% and on Metacritic it has the highest score of any film released in 2016 so far. Pulitzer-prize winning critic, Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal called it “a profoundly moving study of a frightened, near-silent young boy coming into manhood”. This is the film, rather than the flawed “Birth of a Nation”, that is the black masterpiece that Sundance 2016 so wanted to discover.
In a Film Comment magazine interview, director Jenkins said he patterned the structure of: Moonlight on a film by the great Taiwanese auteur Hou Hsiao-hsien titled “Three Times”. That film had a three romance structure-a triptych. Three gifted actors play the principal character at different ages: Alex Hibbert as a young boy (“Little”), Ashton Sanders as a teen (“Chiron”) and Trevante Rhodes as an adult (“Black”)
The amazing thing about this film is how it exceeds your expectations With an artist’s eye for detail Jenkins can pack tremendous meaning into each scene. There are literally hundreds of moments that are transformative as you watch before your very eyes a taciturn child turn into a strong and powerful man.
This is a searing and splendid work which shows you what is possible in great movie-making. It deserves your attention and support.