"Moonlight" is a quiet, soulful film that enraptures the viewer from beginning to end. "—Moonlight" is simplistically beautiful as it tells the story of a young man, Chiron, growing up in the rough Miami neighborhood of Liberty City.
The narrative structure of the film, told in three parts, lets the viewer look past Chiron’s outward appearance and background to dismantle stereotypes and identify with him.
Each part of the film stars a different actor as the main character, Chiron. Each actor that plays Chiron—Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes—captures the character exquisitely. From the youngest to the oldest actor, not only does everyone do their job efficiently, they go above and beyond to portray Director Barry Jenkins' message.
Mahershala Ali as Juan, a local drug dealer, is the stand-out of the film. Ali undeniably deserves the Screen Actors Guild award he won for his role, even if he is only in the movie for a short time. He brings life and new meaning to a type of character that is often seen in cinema. Juan’s chosen career as a drug dealer usually paints a negative light, but Jenkins develops the character in a way that makes the viewer forget the exterior career and focus on the interior. In the short time that the viewer and Chiron knows Juan, they both see that there is more to meet the eye than is presented to the world.
Janelle Monáe as Teresa and Naomie Harris as Paula, Chiron’s mother, represent women on different ends of the spectrum in the environment portrayed in "Moonlight."
Teresa is a mentor and a safe haven for Chiron and Paula is a drug-addicted, verbally abusive caregiver. Both actresses portrayed their characters spectacularly. Regardless of Paula’s poor decisions, Naomie Harris’ portrayal of the character makes the viewer sympathize with her situation and her ultimate regret of the treatment of her son.
Janelle Monáe, who also stars in "Hidden Figures," plays Teresa, a safe haven to Chiron from his own home. Monáe’s natural charisma and spunk makes Teresa relatable and a person to look up to.
Barry Jenkins presents a very personal and important film that allows the viewer to have a glimpse into a young man’s head and thoughts. Chiron is someone with whom all viewers can identify—regardless of background, age, race or gender. Overall, there is not a lot of dialogue in the film. In fact, the message of the film is left unsaid—intentionally by the director. There is much more conveyed in the looks that each character gives and more is said in the silence than in the dialogue.
The score by Nicholas Britell is incredible and it often fills the moments of silence in the film. The elegant, enchanting nature of the music fits perfectly with "Moonlight" and the score will linger with the viewer as the much as the film.
"Moonlight" is a surprisingly wise film about identity and self-discovery. It hits home with anyone who has struggled with identity and who is attempting to find connections in a lonely, harsh world. "Moonlight" is fluid and compassionate in the message conveyed and it leaves the viewer desiring what Chiron wants in the end: to understand, identify and connect with another.