This years Golden Globes threw a surprise up in the air; Moonlight as winner of Best Drama. I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about the movie or its writer and director, Barry Jenkins, and after a brief look at its synopsis I thought I’d be in for a heart-wrenching two hour viewing. Based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight is the story of Chiron’s (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes) coming of age, his struggles with his drug-abusing cold-hearted mother and his inner turmoil of confusion at the realisation of his own sexuality. Taken in from the cold by local drug-runner, Juan (Mahershala Ali), Chiron finds comfort in Juan’s father-like figure. From Chiron’s troubled childhood we move to his troubled teenage years and eventually to his late-twenties, a tale told in three confined acts.
Now to say that the film only focuses on the grim aspects of the above would be incorrect. Moonlight is a story of hope, learning and finding your way in the world regardless of what others believe. Director Barry Jenkins provides a gripping look on what it is to be unloved and unwanted, a child breaking free from struggle and becoming a man.
From Alex Hibbert as the confused child Little, transitioning into the frustrated teenager Chiron played by Ashton Sanders, to finally becoming the no-nonsense and powerful Black, played by Trevante Rhodes, Moonlight’s story thrusts itself into life by its fantastic display of acting, easily the films greatest strength. As the characters spell out their inner turmoil, this leaves Barry Jenkins to spin the camera around them, blurring the background with a soft focus, allowing the characters to take visual control.
A sexual encounter on a beach in Miami followed by an act of violent betrayal thrusts the film into it’s second half, as Black takes centre stage. This is where Jenkins could have taken the easy route and made it an outcome of revenge. However, occasionally in life (though it certainly doesn’t seem like it) there are happy endings. A patient and steady series of events between old acquaintances allows Moonlight to bloom from its cocoon of fear and violence and into an existence of hope and understanding.
This film certainly shows all the strengths to have been nominated for Best Drama at the 2017 Golden Globes, however it’s up to you to decide whether it deserved to win the acclaimed award, a title I’d have reserved for Ken Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea.
Moonlight is out on general release across the UK from 17th February.