Moonlight (2016): Review

I went to two screenings last week, Moonlight & Dr. Strange… And Dr. Strange wasn’t my favorite of the two films.

As the credits rolled at the end of the movie, I shared my thoughts with my friend, Miko.  I told her that overall, the movie was just okay.  By the time we left the theater and walked a couple of blocks, I realized that I watched one of the best movies of the year.

I came into the theater not knowing what the movie was about minus the synopsis I read and a trailer that I barely paid attention to.  As I waited in line to get seated, I noticed that the crowd was a little different than usual.  The young cats were very stylish and diverse.  My first thought was, “did they invite a tech company to screen this movie?”  I was fearing that the movie was gonna be about a start up company or hipster lifestyle.  This movie is totally not about tech companies or hipsters.

When the movie starts, I found myself frustrated that the main character, Chiron, would be in a shell from the beginning.  Juan, a drug dealer who becomes a type of father figure to Chiron constantly tries to get him to open up.   For the first fifteen minutes of the movie, Chiron wouldn’t speak no matter who was in front of him, even Janelle Monoe, who plays Teresa in the film.  I would then learn to accept that this is Chiron.  No matter who was trying to get close, he would never fully feel comfortable in his own skin.

The story is divided into three parts.  “Little” would follow Chiron as a kid, “Chiron” as a teen and “Black” as an adult.  In all three parts, you understand this character through his eyes.  He experiences a lot without saying much.

Other aspects of the film that stood out was the music.  The movie starts off with Boris Gariner’s “Every Nigga Is A Star” which set the mood for the film.  The film uses songs like Goodie Mob’s “Cell Therapy” perfectly.  And that’s what this film is.  Through the eyes of Chiron, moments are like music videos, so when you hear a chopped up version of Janelle Monae’s protoge Jidenna singing “Classic Man”, you feel what he’s thinking as he walks out his car.

The best use of the song comes when Barbara Lewis’ “Hello Stranger” starts playing.  Though the relationship in the was foreign to me, I knew how Chiron was feeling when that song was playing.  For a character who was known to be shy, the song was saying everything to him without him having to reply.  The movie wasn’t just using popular songs in the film to convey a mood.  Nicholas Britell provides the score and is nice contrast to the soulful songs we recognize.

For a stunt fan like me, there isn’t much to talk about.  The movie is a drama but there are a couple of scenes worth mentioning.  There is a scene where a character is jumped.  When it happens, you get somewhat of a POV of the situation.  I thought the scene was shot very well giving me what the character is feeling at that moment.  There’s another short stunt that happens a couple of scenes later that pays off pretty well.  The audience in the theater reacted to the stunt with applause.

I’ve been telling people about this movie since I watched it last week.  The more I mention it, the more I love this film.  I let them know that if I knew what kind of movie this was I would have stayed away from it.  My thought process would have been “this movie wasn’t made for me”.  I’m happy to have experienced a film like this.  This is one of my favorite movies this year.




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