Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Review: Moonlight

Cert: 15 / 111 mins / Dir. Barry Jenkins / Trailer

Well, this is a slightly awkward. I went to see the new writer/director Barry Jenkins flick, Moonight, yesterday. As a three-chaptered story of internal, social and sexual identity, it's pretty great. I just don't have that much to say about it.

And it's not that I don't know how to respond to the film, more that my response is a sort of quiet contemplation. Three segments follow the central character, Chiron, as a child, teenager and adult, through the gang and drug culture of Miami's urban sprawl. And among the domestic struggles we've seen so often over the years in these settings, Chiron thinks from an early age that he might be gay. The film is about how Chiron comes to terms with that, and Jenkins uses quiet introspection where others have used righteousness and rage. This is a calm film about turbulent times. That said, it wasn't as overtly impactful as I'd expected which caught me off guard, but at the same time it wasn't all melodramatic hand-wringing either. Issues are addressed but never resolved neatly, and the film's central subject-matter isn't its sole focus. Yet this borderline reluctance to fit neatly into a standard cinematic box saw me willing the story forward, while at the same time wishing each section was significantly longer and more involved. Maybe I'd have preferred it as three one-hour TV episodes?

Moonlight features solid turns all round under Jenkins' stoic direction, but the standout performances come from Ashton Sanders as the teenage Chiron, and Naomie Harris as his drug-addicted mother (in all three segments). Although at the same time, I want to take points off for the needlessly distracting hand-held cameras (and associated focusing issues), and also for a sound-mix that reduces every third line to an unintelligible mumble.

I enjoyed Moonlight more than this review probably suggests. It didn't blow me away by any means, but it's stayed with me. Which is better, naturally.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
I actually don't know, that's how stumped the film has left me.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
It's more of a Sunday DVD, to be fair.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's the first time I've seen many of the faces here, but the film should be at the top of everyone's CV, I'm sure.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Depends on why we're disagreeing.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There's not.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Well, that Naomi Harris is in this, and she was in that Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End along with Keira 'Sabé' Knightley.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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