Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Film Review: Moonlight

Moonlight: 4.5 Stars

I'm not an ordinary Australian movie viewer - and I loved this, even though it was confronting and unsettling at times. Juxtaposing this is the fact that it looks at life in the raw, without blinkers and with a stark beauty which is rarely seen. There's a slightly disturbing feel to this film, like your watching something you don't know whether you should be seeing - and this is what makes the film great.
Despite the numerous awards and brilliant reviews, very little is known heard about this film in Australia - which is a pity, as this is an important film. A very important film, even if it will not appeal to all viewers. The elements of the film which make it less desirable to ordinary Australian viewer are due to the theme and the content. In ordinary Australian life we see little of sexually conflicted men on the mean streets of Miami.

The film is based on three iterations of the life of Chiron (pronounced Shyrone in the film). On finding out the spelling of his name, something kicked in. Chiron, in Greek Mythology is both a nurturing centaur and the wounded healer. This element, which would go over most viewer's heads, only makes this film the more poignant - supplying a key to the film's true meaning.

Known as Little as a boy, Chiron is rescued from bullies by an imposing but kind drug dealer, Juan, played by an impressive Maharshala Ali. Juan rescues the lad from bullies and takes him back to his partner, Teresa (Janelle Monae) for nurturing and a touch of normality. The couple become parental figures to the conflicted boy, whose drug-addled mother and the knowledge that he's not like everybody else - though he cannot put a name to this.

Here is where this film's importance lies. Moonlight shines a light on what it is to be gay and black and on the fringes of an underbelly which many of us never see. It's subtle and incredibly powerful as we see the young Chiron begin to blossom under the gentle firm care of Juan and Teresa, while his home and school life begin to crumble.

The second section presents Chiron's teenage years. Things aren't looking up for the kid, who is still a misfit, still being mercilessly bullied and his mother's drug dependence has increased to a point where she sells herself for her fix. Teresa remains a calming and stable influence on the boy.

This second part of the film is brutal in it's power. As Chiron is still struggling with his place, his sexuality and his dreadful home life, made a little less awful by the presence of the Kevin, a confident kid who becomes Chiron's ally , the film present an aspect of real life that is familiar as it is shocking. What effected me most about this section is how universal these themes of questions, exclusion and how life can turn on a dime. The conclusion of this section is gut-wrenching.

Finally, we see Chiron, or Black as he is now known, as a hardened adult, dealing drugs on the streets of Atlanta. After calls from his mother from the rehab facility in which she now lives, he makes the journey back to Florida to reconnect with his past, including Kevin. The last section of the film is about forgiveness and redemption.

You cannot help but empathise with Chiron. There is little which any feeling, emotionally connected person will not understand from this child, then teenager, then man looking for some sense of peace and self.

There are far too few films which look at what it is to be gay, especially at a young age. Moonlight looks at this unflinchingly, but with a sensitivity that very few films can achieve.

This film deserves the numerous awards and nominations it has received. A Golden Globe for Best Film - Drama. It has been nominated for Academy Awards for Best Film, Best Supporting Actress (Naomi Harris is up there, but I'll still give this to Michelle Williams in "Manchester on the Sea") Best Supporting Actor for Maharshala Ali and Best Adapted Screenplay.

There is a reason why this film has so many award nominations. It's too important not to have them. We need more cinema of this quality and honesty.

This film isn't everybody's cup of tea, but it is very worthwhile.

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