Not to be confused with the Cher movie Moonstruck, this is an Oscarnated drama about a young black man in three stages of his life.
I’ve seen this film compared to Boyhood, but it’s more like an American Girlhood; a sensitive study of identity, gender and sexuality. It’s the story of a man trapped by social circumstances and expectations. The casting is perfect, with Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes each challenging a new set of these expectations, while also lending the character continuity. There are stunning supporting performances from Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris and Janelle Monáe, who also appeared in Hidden Figures; another Best Picture nominee that really doesn’t belong in the same class as Moonlight. While that was an ordinary film about groundbreaking people, this is a groundbreaking film about ordinary people.
For me, this is the only truly great movie in the category; a bold and beautiful picture that treats its audience with intelligence and its characters with compassion. Barry Jenkins’ approach is at once tender and raw, directing with captivating authenticity and exposed-nerve sensitivity. The rich sound design and music add to the movie’s sense of depth, resulting in a flawless drama that pushes boundaries, challenges assumptions and subverts stereotypes. We often say on this blog that humanity is the essence of great drama, and Moonlight is a shining example. It reflects African-American experiences with the elegance and beauty of moonlight on water.
If you want to see a work of profound relevance, watch Moonlight. If you want to see irrelevance in action, watch it lose the Oscar to La La Land.