“Moonlight” is probably this year’s most intimate film. It focuses on a young man, Chiron, at three different periods of his life, from child to adolescent to adult (played by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes respectively). As he discovers his sexuality and people hate him for being gay, he must find a way to survive, but it may be at the cost of his soul.
The film is a daring exploration into identity. Whether it is about being black, being gay or being masculine, Chiron is constantly challenged to change his natural instincts. He has different nicknames throughout the film, from “black” to “little” to “faggot.” As the world beats him down, he changes for his own sanity, but beneath the tattoos and gold teeth and machismo, he may still be the scared person underneath, searching for acceptance from his best friend.
It is a beautifully shot, poetic film. The different hues of blue echo throughout the story, changing meaning as Chiron changes. The film is wise to linger on shots of the actor’s faces as they deal with their emotions, most of the film told visually rather than through dialogue.
Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, it is a powerfully acted, beautifully imagined journey into one man’s life, but it is a universal story for all about identity, compassion and acceptance. It may indeed be the best film made this year.