Delivering as both a remarkable exercise in sensuousness and a wholly affecting look at suffocated identity, Barry Jenkins’s second film is one of remarkable intimacy, lyrical in both text and texture. A triptych framework explores the life of Chiron (played alternately by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) at three defining periods of his life (connected by a handful of narrative threads), patiently and organically addressing issues of masculinity, sexuality, and identity without the feeling that these themes du jour are being force-fed. In execution, Moonlight is a masterpiece of feeling, built up in the tension between silence and noise, committed to watching its characters process their own existence, and preferring to use what’s left unsaid as a mechanism for developing meaning. Complimenting this is a score comprised of both symphonic compositions and chopped and screwed hip-hop tracks, an obvious but still effective parallel of the dichotomy between Chiron’s inner nature and outer existence. Visually, Jenkins doubles down on the film’s sensuality, reveling in the sweat-glistening black bodies of his actors and intimately framing shots to capture the close-quartered glances and gestures that occur between conversations. Boasting an overwhelmingly powerful final third layered with past tragedies and future possibilities, Moonlight is transcendent even of its considerable parts, its sum a portrait of aching humanism.
Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2016 | Dispatch 1.