Released on Nov. 18, 2016, “Moonlight” is a coming-of-age drama about a poor, young, African American boy coming to terms with his sexuality in a world surrounded by drugs, homophobia and abuse.
“Moonlight” follows the life of Chiron Harris(Mahershala Ali), chronicling his growth from childhood to adulthood as an African-American, gay man living in Miami.
The film stars Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes as the young, adolescent, and adult stages of Harris, respectively. It also features Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe, Andre Holland, and Patrick Decile.
At the 89th Academy Awards, Moonlight won three awards: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay (the film is an adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue). The film also received five more nominations at the Academy Awards and is commendated with being the first LGBTQ+ film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
After being chased by a group of kids, Harris is found in an abandoned apartment by Juan (Mahershala Ali), who takes him home to his wife Teresa (Janelle Monáe). During his stay, Harris maintains a constant reluctance to speak. Juan takes Harris home the next day and meets Harris’s mother Paula (Naomie Harris), who greets him with a stern face and protective stance. The camera follows Harris and Paula inside and rests briefly upon the cocaine left out by Paula, until she clears it away in a rush and scolds him. This interaction is only the beginning of a spiraling drug issue that defines Harris’s family life. He continues to visit Juan and Teresa, and the two become a form of adoptive parents for him, providing food, shelter and wisdom for him whenever he needs it.
“Moonlight” is a beautifully directed film loaded with fantastic cinematography, especially in regards to its lighting and framing elements. One of the best examples of this is found in the first act, as Harris’s mother Paula (Naomie Harris) has a stand-off with young Harris (Alex R. Hibbert). Intense pink hues highlight one half of Harris’s face, while shadowing her other side. The viewer can’t hear what she yells, but the nerve-wracking soundtrack says everything for her. It’s a powerful and striking scene and is very indicative of director Barry Jenkin’s directorial skills.
“Moonlight” is an absolutely phenomenal film and raises the bar for movies of all types. “Moonlight” is available on DVD/Blu-Ray, or is included with Amazon Prime. It is also available to rent or buy on streaming services such as Fandango, Google Play, iTunes, and Vudu.
If interested in more of director Barry Jenkins’ work, watch his most recent film, ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ (2018), a crime-drama based on the acclaimed book by James Baldwin.