Moonlight

Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight is to film what poems are to novels; it’s light on dialogue, under two hours long, and contains (to the horror of some reviewers) very little in the way of plot. It is, quite frankly, a masterpiece. Many film theorists and critics have waxed lyrical over the years about the greatness of films that maintain their emotional power with the sound turned off. While it would be a disservice to Nicholas Britell’s beautiful soundtrack to hit the mute button on Moonlight, the quality of Jenkin’s images, colours, and use of framing make it impossible for Chiron’s story not to be felt. Here is a film that showcases the ultimate power of the medium: it is both aesthetically stunning, reminiscent of other directors like Steve McQueen and Francis Ford Coppola who work with the precision and detail of painters, whilst also telling a story that could not be more necessary in the political moment. The word ‘important’ is one that is thrown around to describe any film now with even a hint of political content, and it is highly reductive to suggest that ‘apolitical’ films (were such a feat possible) are not also capable of great power. However, in an industry that would so often see Black actors cast as ‘cool friend’, ‘badass gangster’, or indeed ‘unnamed terrorist’, Jenkins has produced a work that lets Black people (mostly men) be people and, crucially, Black children be children. The young Chiron by no means has an easy start, but scenes in which he learns to swim or runs with his friends are so simply poignant and even his nickname, Little, is a heartbreaking contrast to terms like ‘male Black’ and ‘juvenile’ that police officers have used as justification for the murder of Black boys. This is Jenkins’ love song to the Black communities of his home state Florida, its wonders and its ugliness being treated with equal care and nuance. In Moonlight, Barry Jenkins gives voice to the so often silenced queer identities of poor Black communities and, without a doubt, the strength of what he makes must be seen to be believed.

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