Moonlight Review

Moonlight

A maturing, charismatic man makes his way into a warm and welcoming theatre from the cold and brightly lit streets of Piccadilly.

He jauntily strolls down the stairs to the foyer with the economy of a retired, champion ballroom dancer on his evening off, admiring his once svelte physique reflected against the mirrored walls.

Stroking his carefully seasoned beard. Quietly rejoicing at the comfort of his beige, perfectly pitched slacks.

‘I’m here to watch the film’! He brazenly announces to an official looking lady at the foot of the stairs. ‘Can’t remember which one it is, but I’m sure it will be grand’.

Once the formalities are done the smartly dressed lady enquires as to the whereabouts of the gentleman’s plus one for the evening, sagely deducing that he is not the sort of man to be travelling alone.

Except that for tonight, he is. His date for the evening, a rather fancy young intern, suitably impressed by tales of a freewheeling approach to an otherwise humdrum office life, has implausibly declined to attend on account of unforeseen transportation issues.

It’s not a huge stretch to imagine that a chap may receive something approaching sympathy from the distribution company’s charming representative when forlornly announcing that a +1 for the evening has sadly been forced to rain check.

And perhaps it might not have been entirely appropriate to invite the extremely courteous and professional PR to be his ‘replacement’ for the evening.

But please don’t mock the fellow. A soon to be 43 year old man just looking for the chance to be happy does not deserve to be ridiculed for being blown out. This evening is a shattering blow to the self-esteem. Will his sensitive soul ever find its true counterpoint?

As luck would have it soul crushing despair at the realisation of one’s own mortality is the perfect frame of mind in which to eat popcorn for one and take in Barry Jenkins’ hotly anticipated Moonlight, a touching and at times melancholy film set over three acts, about a black American loner’s journey from boy to manhood.

The protagonist is played by a different actor for each stanza. As Little, Alex Hibbert is endearing as a mute, terrified boy growing up in a Florida ghetto. Little is an outsider, picked upon by his peers and worried for his crack-addled mother Paula, slightly overplayed throughout by Naomie Harris.

Little asks her mother’s supplier, Juan, who takes a paternal interest in him after saving him from another beating, how do you know when you are a faggot. The relationship between the streetwise Juan, played by Maherasha Ali as the father figure slowly gaining the trust of the vulnerable Little is beautifully played out.

In adolescence Chiron is played by Alex Hibbert, still lonely, still terrified, scawny and quiet. He is mercilessly bullied in turn by his addicted mother and the class alpha male, Terrell. Withdrawn and

inexperienced, Chiron experiences something of a sexual awakening with his only friend Kevin, one evening on a moonlit beach. After one of the finer scenes in the motion picture canon involving a piece of wooden furniture, Chiron is placed into police custody.

For the final act we meet Black, now a proud graduate of the American penal system. Implausibly muscular, pumped full of steroids and accessorised with a shiny set of gold teeth, Black the adult is rather more disposed to deliver the terrifying. Operating a small and lucrative drugs cartel in the Atlanta projects, Black’s life almost plays like an homage to Juan, his childhood rescuer. Still alone and a man of few words, Black reflects on what might have been with his old school friend.

The Oscar buzz Moonlight has received perhaps unfairly lifted my expectations to such an extent that I found myself a little underwhelmed.

That is not to say Moonlight is never less than engaging and indeed at times moving. It successfully manages to avoid an accidental collision with cliché by depicting interesting and unconventional characters that you may not expect to see in a deprived, marginalised community.

As much as the central character demands our sympathy, the spare script, punctuated by lingering beauty shots, betrays a lack of real emotional wallop. However it is a handsome-looking and sounding film with strong central performances which help make an unlikely relationship ring true.

So whilst it may not be a typical date movie the ability to make an audience identify with the films singular hero may well make Moonlight the ideal film to be rejected to.

Frank Gardiner

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