Search

Moonlight, review: ‘Barry Jenkins gives us life’

PUBLISHED: 09:00 15 February 2017

Moonlight. Picture: David Bornfriend

Moonlight. Picture: David Bornfriend

Archant

Moonlight shows life at its toughest and its most real, making it a more than worthy Oscar contender

The central character in Moonlight has three names and three faces and we drop in on him three times: as a boy called Little (Alex Hibbert), a teenager called Chiron (Sanders) and a man called Black (Trevante Rhodes).

You’d expect a film that charts the journey from boy to man to be concerned with the passing of time, but Moonlight plays out in a vacuum, a suspended state, where time and the wider culture have no hold. It always seems to be the present day and, other than a couple of extras, there isn’t a white face in the film.

Jenkin’s drama is strong on what is right in front of it. The camera is kept fixed on the foreground; the background is often a blur. His approach is to give a lightness to something that would usually be very heavy. Chiron’s mother (Naomie Harris) is a meth addict, the local drug dealer (Mahershala Ali) becomes a surrogate father figure, he is bullied at school and struggles with his sexuality.

Most other writer/directors would’ve presented this tale as a very stern and browfurrowed look at The African American Experience.

Jenkins gives us life – a tough life to be sure, but the film’s main thrust is the sense of being alive and the vitality of that, even when the life being lived isn’t up to much.

It simply flies through its first two thirds: you won’t believe he’s an adult already. In the final third Jenkins decides to bring the film to a halt, to bring some consequence and reflection to the years that have flown by. Viewers may also need a few minutes to adjust to this last Chiron: the gawky child has been transformed into musclebound 50 Cent lookalike.

This could be a decent outside bet to sneak the Oscar over La La Land because: It’s very good; they can’t keep giving it to films about Hollywood; to make amends for the Brokeback snub; giving it to a Big Black Gay film would make for a wagging finger anti-Trump statement about diversity.

But the values in Moonlight are, however inadvertently, generally conservative: drugs are bad, bullies have to be met with force, boys need fathers and races keep to themselves.

Halfmanhalfcritic.weebly.com for a review of Hannah and Her Sisters blu-ray release.

Latest Islington Entertainment Stories

Wed, 16:46

Following the success of their Haggerston and Seven Dials venues, Chick ‘n’ Sours bring a fresh new menu to their latest restaurant in Islington.

Wed, 15:58

This Monday, a pop-up record and book store aiming to ‘explore the positive connection between mental health and the arts’ will open in Stoke Newington for a one week stay.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Some of Hackney and Islington’s most popular eateries have joined forces with DesignMyNight.com – a nightlife discovery website – to stage a weekender dedicated to brunch in all its glory.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Born and raised in Islington, the revered music journalist Barry Cain is also a real talent when it comes to fiction writing. His first novel – The Types of Wrath – is available now.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Fostering older teenagers means giving them the skills for life as an adult. Here, a supportive lodgings carer with Islington Council and young adult who has left care share their stories

Newsletter Sign Up

Islington Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read entertainment

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Islington Gazette
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now