Moonlight is cinematic poetry

Published: March 2, 2017
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The film is very much an ensemble piece and it’s astonishing how perfectly every actor hits their mark beginning with the trio of performances depicting Chiron. PHOTO: IMDb

Issues of identity, sexuality and masculinity have always been fascinating subjects in cinema, but rarely have they ever been explored with such beauty, mastery and eloquence as they are with Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight.

A film that simultaneously feels both grand and intimate and a film that leaves a lasting impact on you, whether it is through its subtle, fleeting touches or it’s vibrant, vivid images.

Mahershala Ali and Alex R. Hibbert in Moonlight (2016)
Photo: IMDb

From the first frame to the last, Moonlight is a balancing act that never falters. It introspects the life of Chiron, a young African-American boy in Miami, through three different stages of his life — childhood, adolescence and adulthood — divided into three sections in the film, as he comes to grips with his identity, and rather the struggle he goes through in search of identity.

As each act runs its course, Jenkins utilises perspective in order to elevate Chiron’s arc as it weaves through the structuring to which Moonlight is allowing itself to follow. We get a grip of how others around him end up looking at him, a major factor to where the core power of the film only finds itself rising even higher up.

And Jenkins’ brilliance behind the camera cannot be emphasised enough. Complemented by some outstanding work by cinematographer James Laxton, Jenkins is able to capture the most complex of moods and emotions with the most subtle shots and movements. He finds elegance and richness everywhere, whether it is the shadowy street corners and diners bathed in yellow and black, or the radiant moonlight reflecting black and blue.

Ashton Sanders in Moonlight (2016)
Photo: IMDb

Trevante Rhodes in Moonlight (2016)
Photo: IMDb

The film is very much an ensemble piece and it’s astonishing how perfectly every actor hits their mark beginning with the trio of performances depicting Chiron. The three different actors who play Chiron — Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes –all bring a certain uniqueness to their respective performances which coincides with what Chiron is going through at that point of his life. But the vulnerability and sensitivity in all three performances make them stand-out as a singular, collective portrait.

Naomie Harris, who plays Chiron’s mother, is equally outstanding with very different sense of vulnerability and fragility to her performance. But the stand-out is arguably Mahershala Ali in a phenomenal performance as Juan, a drug-dealer and surrogate father figure to Chiron who just brings an astonishing amount of depth and empathy to a character that could easily have seemed like clichéd stereotype on paper. He won the Oscar on February 27th and it is a wholly deserved one.

Mahershala Ali and Alex R. Hibbert in Moonlight (2016)
Photo: IMDb

Naomie Harris in Moonlight (2016)
Photo: IMDb

Alex R. Hibbert in Moonlight (2016)
Photo: IMDb

Moonlight is cinematic poetry. It says a million things just by a moving glance of it’s characters. Each frame, each moment washes over you, beating to the throbs and pulses of Nicholas Britell’s symphonic Mozart-esque score. And the themes this film tackles and explores are as timeless as they are universal.

This post originally appeared here

Khalid Rafi

Khalid Rafi

The author enjoys writing and is passionate about Pakistan Cricket. He tweets @TheKhalidRafi (twitter.com/TheKhalidRafi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    its gay agenda
    i condemn this movieRecommend

  • Hasan

    A meaningful and transforming film about being human.Recommend

  • Hidayat Rizvi

    The entire game of communal politics by BJP and RSS is structured around a few points that are constantly reiterated – Ram mandir, article 370, uniform civil code and so on. These points are exploited in a number of ways based on local issues.

    A 150-year-old myth which is still doing the rounds is that of a growing Muslim population as opposed to that of Hindus. For a century and a half, Hindus have feared that Muslim men forcefully marry Hindu women, that they produce more children and that the Hindus will become a minority at some point in future. After the crushing defeat in Bihar, it was thought that the BJP will drop this agenda, but it hasn’t. They will continue to resort to such language until people get used to it.

    Such rhetoric is nothing new. But no matter how many times it has been used in the past, its workability is decided by several other factors.

    Victory is important in elections, but to change people’s minds and influence the way they think has far-reaching effects. The defeat of the BJP in Bihar does not guarantee that communalisation has not taken place.

    Social scientist Ashis Nandy, along with Archit Yagnik, had interviewed Modi in the early 1990s. After the interview, Nandy told Yagnik, “For the first time, I have met a textbook case of a fascist.” It is not the opinion of a political leader but that of an expert – a psychoanalyst..!!!!.Recommend