Moonlight review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
Okay, so, in order to objectively justify my average ratings for this film, let me elaborate on how I end up rating films after all’s said and done. So, according to me, a film’s quality can be gauged on three general levels: Competency or how it’s shot; good Story or whether it’s relatable or not; and Creativity or how original a given film is. If a film has nailed competency, but falters at either of the next two variables, then the film is not good. If it manages to score a 10/10 in the category of good Story, then the two remaining variables don’t matter, so we can neatly say that the film is good. If the film nails creativity and falters at the previous two categories, then we say that “hey, at least the film was original and creative” and we stop at that. Moonlight is competently shot, has a mediocre story, and is not original – which makes it the perfect mediocre film in my book.
Moonlight is directed by Barry Jenkins, and follows Chiron (Ashton Sanders) – a runaway African-American boy who hides from his abusive mother Paula in a motel. Soon, the boy (nicknamed “Little”) is found by another crack dealer (named Juan, played by Mahershala Ali) and is brought home to his girlfriend Theresa (played by Janelle Monáe). The two form an unlikely mentor-student duo as Juan tries to fill the missing father figure after which Little so desperately craves – despite the hostility from Paula. To great disappointment of everyone, this is where Juan’s story ends and the audience is reminded later in the film that he is now actually dead.
In the second segment of the film, Chiron is introduced as a teenager who often gets bullied by his peers (because of his withdrawn nature and possible homosexuality as well). All of these issues are presented not only as Chiron’s hardships – but as genuine problems within the African-American community as well, which is something director/writer Barry Jenkins isn’t afraid to push forward. Then, Chiron meets Kevin at the beach in a romantic encounter that proves detrimental to their friendship, since Kevin later belittles Chiron and leads to the latter smashing a chair over him in front of the whole class. After this incident, Chiron is taken by the police and put in a detention center for juveniles. This is where the second act ends.
The third act sees Chiron reconciling with his mother, with Kevin, and this is where the film runs out of gas. In fact, the film is basically over by the time Chiron realizes who he is and accepts his identity in the face of great adversity. Curtains roll.
All things considered, Moonlight is not a bad film, it’s just is not a masterpiece either. The dynamic in the beginning is hampered by the slow pace in the third act, and this fact alone makes Moonlight a perfectly mediocre film at that. Still, not bad.