Review: Moonlight (2016)

Rating: ★★★★★

  • Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
  • Metacritic: 99/100
  • IMDb: 7.6

I know, I know.. “Drew, why are you pumping out all of the 5 star reviews right now? Where’s the criticism?” Just save it, because it’ll come soon enough. I’m trying to ease into this whole critiquing thing and it’s difficult not to start with some of my favorites. Honestly, I wish I could personally give Barry Jenkins a high five, a standing ovation, literally any form of praise for this beautiful work of cinema. This is a raw, inviting story into the life of a young African-American boy growing up in poverty in Miami, Florida. In its bare bone state, its simply a story of finding identity with little to no guidance whatsoever.


Cinematography: “The art of making motion pictures”. That is the most succinct definition anyone could come up with, in my opinion. The focus of the definition is clearly “art”. From the very start, Barry Jenkins uses masterful aperture and softening to focus the camera on the prime character of the scene. It’s essentially a tunnel vision effect that forces the viewer to pay attention to the speaker of the moment until the dialogue flows onto the next character. This film’s use of focus is seen throughout, emphasized by the indie flare it brings that A24 is becoming known for.


I’m convinced that I will never fully understand why something can be called “Oscar Bait” and therefore be discredited. When a film is vying for the critic-base’s approval, it means the producers try to perfect every aspect of its production. “Oscar Bait” is a sorry excuse to somehow complain that the director is “trying too hard”. I’m sorry but that’s just ridiculous. You wouldn’t discredit a chef for trying to perfect the perfect dish; a carpenter for trying to perfect the perfect chair; or even an artist for trying to master every stroke of the brush. Give credit where credit is due: This film deservedly took home Best Picture.

“Hey, man. I got you. There you go. Ten seconds. Right there… You in the middle of the world”

The score. Wow, the score. The more I write about this film the more I remember how incredible it is. The eerie violin-laden score is what convinced me to give Moonlight a shot to begin with. Even the trailer is a masterpiece by giving you just enough content to intrigue you without giving away even a fraction of the plot. Do yourself a favor and look up The Middle of the World by Nicholas Britell from the soundtrack and I hope you’ll feel the same pull towards Moonlight that I did. It’s the most mysteriously fascinating score I’ve heard since The Social Network and it might rival There Will Be Blood for my favorite score of all time. There’s just something soothing, yet tense about the horde of violins that barrages your eardrums. It flawlessly syncs with the growing sense of entropy in Chiron’s mind that only adds to his struggle for self-worth.


This film gets 5 stars for many reasons and the last one I want to elaborate on is the plot as a whole. Self-identity is something that everyone struggles with to a certain extent. You can imply that Chiron has always struggled with identity, even from first glance of him running for his life into a rundown apartment in the Miami sun. He’s bullied even then because of his demeanor, and it only escalates from there. I want to keep this review spoiler free so I’ll spare you the details, but please give this film a chance when you want a break from the Hollywood block-busters that seem to be made for the box office numbers and you will not regret it.

Drew – 5/8/17 ♘


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