Monday, October 10, 2016

London Film Festival: MOONLIGHT

The London Film Festival continues, and the second film I had the pleasure of seeing was Barry Jenkins's potent masterpiece Moonlight, which I have decided, is my favourite film of 2016 so far. The film is about an African-American man who struggles to be himself over three periods of his life, trying to come out, but also stay faithful.

Wow... This movie is so powerful. Barry Jenkins has directed an artistic, structurally interesting film that tackles important subject matter in a beautiful way. As I was watching the film, I was in awe of Jenkins's directing styles, the choices he makes, the way he lets the camera focus on someone's face for around 20 seconds, with them not speaking at all, with the beautiful score by Nichols Britell playing.

Jenkins also wrote the script, which is based off of the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney. I, myself, have not read or seen the play, but from what I heard from the Q & A I saw after the film, which featured Jenkins, McCraney, Naomi Harris (who is impeccable in the film), Trevonte Rhoades (who plays the adult version of the lead character, also brilliant) and Andre Holland (who plays the adult version of our lead characters life long crush), the film stays faithful to the play, and the playwright seemed very happy with how Moonlight turned out.

Also, the way Jenkins directs the film's scenes that deal with Chiron, our lead character, dealing with his sexuality, are very tender. In every act, there is a scene between Chiron, and his friend/crush Kevin, in which they both display affection between one another that is more than just friendship, and every scene brought me to tears. As a bi-sexual teenager myself, I have been where Chiron has been, nervous about coming out, and the way Jenkins dealt with that struggle in Moonlight, moved me more than any other LGBTQ film ever has.

On to the actors, who I touched on above, all of whom are extraordinary! Naomi Harris is almost unrecognizable as Paula, our lead character Chiron's drug addicted mother. In three acts she displays different layers of Paula, the loving mother who wants desperately to care for her son in the 3rd act, the aggressive, on death's door addict in the 2nd act, and the semi-stable caring-ish mother in the 1st act. I would be shocked if she wasn't nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the upcoming Oscars.

The three actors who play Chrion in the film are all terrific. Alex R. Hibbert who plays the child version of Chiron, is a natural. He conveys warmth, unease and hope in ways most adult actors can't. Ashton Sanders who plays the teenage version of Chiron does what Hibbert does and more. His performance is a masterclass in young acting. He conveys, unlike Hibbert, who in my opinion conveyed a childlike hope, hopelessness. Emptiness. Angst, in such a raw, real way, that really surprised me. Just brilliant. And Trevonte Rhoades who plays the adult version of Chiron is also great. He, like the actors who played Chiron before him, conveys such hope/hopelessness. In some scenes he looks dead behind the eyes. Life/ignorance of others has beat him down and made him a casualty of bullying. Rhoades, who as I stated was at the Q&A, has wonderful on stage charisma. Definitely one to watch.

All of the actors that played Kevin, Chiron's crush, were also great. The one that stood out the most though, was Andre Holland, who played the adult version of Kevin, who might have given my favourite performance of the year! He moved me to tears, his eyes moved me to tears. Just beautiful.

Mahershala Ali was great as Juan, Chiron's father figure. He has a scene in the film which references the Play's title, which is fantastic. Singer Janelle Monae also is very good as Theresa, Chiron's mother figure, who is there for him when his biological mother isn't.

The film is shot beautifully, scored amazingly and the soundtrack is great! I adored Moonlight. It is my favourite film of the year, and of any year. Definitely check it out when you get the chance.

Sammy's Score: 10/10

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