REVIEW: One Of 2016’s Best, ‘Moonlight’ Fires On All Cylinders

“Moonlight” is both one of the year’s best films and also one of the greatest coming of age stories put on screen.

The picture follows the story of a character named Chiron as he navigates his way through life in Miami. The flick is split up into three sections of Chiron’s life, his youth where he’s played by Alex Hibbert, his teenage years, portrayed by Ashton Sanders and his adult period, acted by Trevante Rhodes.

As the film develops, it puts on display Chiron coming to terms with his sexuality, his struggles living in a poverty-stricken area of Miami and his strained relationship with his mother.

“Moonlight” is exquisite filmmaking, with every aspect firing on all cylinders. The story, for example, is well molded to explore the proverbial highlights of Chiron’s youth. Each moment shown on screen of his childhood and teenage years are key to his development and perfectly translate into who he becomes as he gets older.

Most importantly, though, the story feels extraordinarily real and raw. As Chiron goes through his experiences in his life, an audience can feel all of the emotions that flow off the screen. From his questioning his sexuality to his difficulty with his mother’s drug addictions, what Chiron feels can be appreciated by the audience by how it’s filmed.

Significantly adding to the film’s success was the three actors portraying Chiron on screen. As “Moonlight” progressed, Chiron remained exactly the same person, as Hibbert, Sanders and Rhodes each did a phenomenal job keeping true to the character’s facial expressions and mannerisms. It only made the journey of Chiron’s life that much more believable.

Giving another fantastic performance was Naomie Harris, who played Chiron’s mother Paula. Harris was able to fully portray a character who was an abusive mother toward her son, but at the same time was an extremely tortured person herself.

Barry Jenkins, who also wrote the great script, was the picture’s director, and with the help of cinematographer James Laxton and colorist Alex Bickel, was able to create a visually appealing setting to surround Chiron’s life.

The use of lighting and color were especially important to the film’s success and made different emotionally compelling scenes even more charged. Prime examples of this are when Harris is playing her character yelling at Chiron and being bathed in a red light and moments taking place in Miami at night with an ever present soft neon glow.

The superb filmmaking, award caliber acting and very engaging story combine for easily one of 2016’s best picture’s. I can’t recommend it enough, 5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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