Moonlight (USA, 2016)

moonlight-movie-poster-480x696Directed by: Barry Jenkins. This is definitely one of those movies that everyone is talking about and that everyone will continue to talk about in years to come, and that I’ll be glad I went to see in theatres when I did. I think I’ll have to watch a second time to catch the technical details, because usually I’m just watching for narrative, the plot, pacing, dialogue, and the acting—I want to be immersed as a spectator, and it isn’t unless some really flashy camera choices or editing choices jump out at me that I really take notice of any of that stuff. From what I gather though, most of the praise is for the restraint, the incredibly light touch director Barry Jenkins put on this thing. That’s not to say his thumbprint isn’t all over this thing—it is. This is one of those films that could have been scripted and directed by Paul Haggis or somebody, that would have bludgeoned the story and the characters with a sledgehammer, and they would have got some great actors and had them yelling and screaming and crying, and it would have been like literally every other high-emotion drama that Hollywood blubbers over at Oscar time. And I’m certainly glad that this movie got attention and that it’ll probably get Oscar buzz, but mostly I’m happy that this film got into the right hands, that it was Barry Jenkins who got the source play (which apparently was never performed) and adapted it and directed his amazing cast into amazing performances, and made incredibly effective editing choices, to tell this very simple story about extremely complex human circumstances. The short version is that this is a very high-quality movie, one whose performances, whose framing, whose colours, stay with you long after. And perhaps because it was originally intended for the stage, this film doesn’t get flashy, it stays intimate. There are no crane shots, for example (if I remember correctly). It’s a very human movie, very modest, except for where it needs to be. There is a single, stylized, slow-motion shot of the mother yelling at the kid, that is one of the great shots of cinematic history, immediately. This shot keeps coming back, over and over, as the protagonist grows up, and Jenkins is able to capture, in a film, the way that images and feelings imprint emotion onto us, at the primordial level. This is not Jenkins’ first film, but this is still an incredible feat, considering that it’s only his second film, and considering that there are filmmakers in Hollywood today who spend their whole careers never even considering the possibility of tapping into the kind of emotional resonance that floods from the screen for every minute of running time in this movie. When this came out, I kept hearing “Go see this! You gotta see this!” It’s true. Go see it, you gotta it.

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5 responses to “Moonlight (USA, 2016)

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