Moonlight (TIFF Review)



What did you expect?

In Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, the notion of identity and its internal poetic chaos is captured in ways you have never seen before. The audacious screenplay digs deep with a powerful sense of place and time. Told in three chapters, it explores the moments in time that define us, the burgeoning nature of masculinity and standards forced upon us, our self-acceptance superimposed on us throughout life and the people who help mold and develop our personal identity. All here captured in an intimate and poetic scope internalizing lyric flights of internal and external pain with catharsis and empathetic humanity intersowed among raw naturalism, all lay deemed toward our own personal self-acceptance.

The performances here are across the board phenomenal. First you have Naomie Harris, tackling her transformative role as Chiron’s drug-addicted mother who is a fierce and heartrending force. Her lack of parental presence has been a sensitizing one on her son’s upbringing. Then you have Mahershala Ali, a father figure who is also the humanizing soul of the picture. He makes a lasting impression on Chiron’s evolving growth in adolescence and who he becomes as an adult. His serenading words both mesmerize and inspire you, the same way it impacts Chiron. You also have the two third-act romantic champions being the serenely riveting Trevante Rhoades, as an adult Chiron. A once scrawny teenager turned buff gentle giant of a man clearly embodying a representative image of the man who raised him. His path is stunted and temporarily repressed among his own internal demons from afflicting trauma at the end of the second act. Last but not least, you have Andre Holland playing Kevin, the adult version of his lost love from his childhood. Holland’s charming charisma and good looks just radiate the screen and it’s hard not to fall for him too. The dialogue in their scenes inside a diner lay out a conversation as the two catch up and figure out the intention behind the meeting. The scenes frequently intercuts with close-ups and impose an erotic visual landscape that is captivating to watch build up to a tantalizing moment of relief and reflection. This meeting is also the final step to put Chrion back on his own transcendent path. Their everlasting bond, despite the terms they ended on is forever eternal. The high school chapter prior is also strong dealing with the pain and pressure of teenage harassment over your sexuality, even when you’re unsure of it yourself. It also in this chapter that begins expanding the love story which began in act one. The environment is a critical point and time for experimentation to really dig in to find out who you are. The two brave souls are drawn to one another in the cluelessness of love and dubious hesitation. Yet what eventually unfolds between them across a moonlight beach is perhaps the most poetic, non-gratuitious sex scene I’ve ever seen grace the cinematic screen. The cameras are constantly swirling and neon colors capture the moods felt on screen. The score throughout is amplifying, sorting to the nature and environment thrust upon them. Their graceful bond in the chapter allows the two to better define their homosexuality. Sadly the intrinstic mind games that further tackles departmental masculinity represses their sexualities right back until they reunite again years later.

Moonlight overall is a profound yet painful journey of exploration that will long stand the test of time, becoming an auspicious and timeless reminder to a period once lived through the internal struggles we deal with and must lay to rest. Thus quaintly setting writer-director Barry Jenkins up as a cinematic beacon of hope for our broadening future. [A]

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