This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Kareem’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
After the more than deserved, but sadly chaotic Oscar win, I decided to watch this film again, because I often find myself enjoying a film a whole lot more the second time.
This turned out to be true once more, this time Moonlight gave me a sensation I never had watching a film, one that I can't quite describe.
The film has a whole slew of influences, especially Wong Kar Wai's style of audiovisual composition inspired Barry Jenkins obviously a lot. But all those influences are connected with a sense of humanity through visual poetry, that is unique in the medium.
People who reduce this movie on its story about the coming of age of a gay, black man, trapped by his circumstances and the concept of masculinity, may overlook the sheer brilliance and consideration that is embedded in every single shot of this.
There is a subtlety in the acting by all three actors who protray Chiron, that expresses way more than a thousand words. These kind of acting performances are rare and thus unaccustomed, the only other recent similar one I can remember is Daniela Vega in 'A Fantastic Woman'. Chiron doesn't talk much, he is not only suppressed by his surroundings, but also by himself, just to fit into the hostile world that surrounds him, but still...there is a deep uncertainty in every of Chiron's actions, implying that he has at least to a certain extent an understanding of who he is.
This understanding stays always with him, but after years and years of suppression it takes a lot for him to finally recognize and accept it.
The cinematography of this film is one of the biggest cinematic wonders of the year and I would have loved for James Laxton to get recognition at the Academy Awards. Moonlight is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and captures his black characters in ways we have rarely seen before, but the most impressive thing about it is how restrained and focused the camerawork actually is. It does never show off in a single moment, every shot shows us just as much as it has to.
That leads me back to the directing. Moonlight is absolutely flawless in that aspect, this story could have not been told better. The film flows from scene to scene, never showing a trace of fat, never feeling too thin. The already mentioned audiovisual composition reaches almost hypnotic heights in some scenes, which is partly due to Nicholas Brittel's astonishing score, that is intertwined with the cinematography in such a flawless manner that you couldn't imagine them being seperated once.
And I haven't even really talked about the writing yet.
Moonlight is first and foremost a work of empathy and understanding and weaves a narrative that takes on a lot of issues and emotional and psychological themes that are connected to Chiron's identity in relation to his surroundings.
The screenplay somehow destroys a barrier that might have been between the viewer and Chiron and suddenly you see yourself in him, even though you might not be gay, black or working class.
Chiron is human and acts like anyone would in his circumstances, we understand his actions, his fears, his pain.
And then there is the last act, which swept me off my feet completely this time. The underlying tension between Chiron and Kevin is something monumental and singular, the unsaid dominates and it gives the characters much more depth than any amount of dialogue ever could.
The moment Chiron finally confesses to Kevin and comes of age is one of the most emotional moments I have ever witnessed in cinema history. Not necessarily in a tear-inducing, gut-wrenching way (I still cried an ocean this time), but in a deeply resonant and human one. Its a culmination of an entire youth of uncertainty and suppression, its a moment of self-acceptance, one of freedom and hope for the future, whatever it might bring.