Sunday, April 23, 2017

Moonlight (2016)

Director: Barry Jenkins
Writer: Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney
DOP: James Laxton
Cast: Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, Janelle Monae, Mahershala Ali

A chronicle of the childhood, adolescence and burgeoning adulthood of a young, African- American, gay man growing up in a rough neighbourhood of Miami.

I really didn't have much idea about the film when I was going in apart from the knowledge about the Oscars that it won and something about Wong Kar-Wai. I am wary of Oscar winning films as they very often tend to be very award-baity and won't stand the test of time. Also because of the whole diversity controversy from the year before, it seemed like they were overcompensating for it this year. The first half of the film with an overly showy camera movements and deliberate slowness did nothing to alleviate my fears about it going in. But the second half of the film totally blew me away and put the whole film in a different light. Now I see where the Wong Kar-Wai comparisons come from and I was expecting Christopher Doyle's name as its cinematographer.

The film is divided into three chapters with each titled after protagonist's names- 1. Little, his nickname provided to him by those who bully him, 2. Chiron, his original name and 3. Black, a nickname given to him by a friend. He is quite submissive during the first two chapters as he is confused by his sexuality and how others behave towards him. His junkie mum is not at all a helping figure for him during this ordeal. You think he finally breaks free towards the end of second chapter when he finally reacts violently. It is the point from when it started getting interesting for me. Then it cuts into the third chapter with him in his 20s running drugs business. But you later learn that rather than embracing his sexuality, he had rebuild himself from the ground up during and after his jail time. The film is basically about how the surroundings shape your life.

It is a terrific watch and I am glad it won ahead of the musical La La Land, which I'm totally disinterested to check out. The second half of the film, which is visually sumptuous, takes it to a whole new level and it is difficult to describe why. Three actors play the protagonist in the three chapters and all of them are terrific. The whole cast is terrific with Mahershala Ali, familiar from House of Cards, also involved in the first chapter.