You know how some years, you look at the films in the running for the esteemed ‘Best Film’ Oscar and just think to yourself, why..? How..? Take my word for it when I say this couldn’t be further from the truth in the case of one of the films in the running this year, Moonlight.
You might say films have a harder time doing their job in this age of limitless information; the job of entertaining, educating and provoking thought and debate when the whole world is made available to us through our screens. Films that manage to tick all three boxes are quite simply works of art, and Moonlight goes above and beyond in this respect.
The film focuses on troubled Chiron, a boy in the process of becoming a man in a rough neighbourhood of Miami, while struggling against powerful forces, both internal and external. His solo mother (Naomi Harris in one of her best performances to date), who attempts unsuccessfully to balance parenting with her drug addiction, is just one of such force which has a tragic effect on Chiron’s life.
Moonlight visits Chiron during three different, critical stages of his life; childhood, teen years, and adulthood. In each part, a different actor reprises the central role, and each brings to the character something unique and beautiful. The three portrayals contrast each other starkly, but such differences are utterly believable when one considers the vast differences we all experience ourselves between these three defined periods.
At its heart, Moonlight is a film about identity – Chiron’s identity as a young black man growing up in a challenging environment; his sexual identity; his identity in relation to his community, his peers, and his family. There are elements of Chiron’s identity that limit him, that scare him and haunt him, and that he does not even understand. His entire life is a struggle to own who he truly is.
There is so much I could say about this film, but I almost don’t want to deny anyone the experience of discovering it for oneself. What I will say is that it is an eye opener, a beautiful a watch. It opened not only my eyes but my heart, and mind, to a possibility of stories, situations and individuals that I had never thought to consider before.
There is so much we never see and experience in life; more often than not these are good things we are sad to lack (opportunity to travel, for example...) but there are also bad things. I feel so lucky never to have faced the challenges that Chiron faces in Moonlight, and yet seeing his story made me so aware of how many people out there struggle with things I can’t even understand. What I can understand, and what Moonlight helped me see, is that you should never judge a book by a cover, you should always approach every single person you meet with an open heart; a useful lesson in light of the times in which we find ourselves living.
All I can say... just go see it. Full marks from me.
In UK cinemas February 17