"Moonlight" Movie Review

Updated on August 23, 2019
popcollin profile image

Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).

Moonlight | Source

More often than not it seems movies try to throw everything possible at audiences in an effort to entertain, whether it’s big stars, big effects, overly-intricate plots, whiz-bang animation, sight gags, or the always-maudlin tear-jerking moments.

But each year there are also a small handful of movies that just keep it simple, telling a quiet story about people. Last month saw the honest and heartfelt Loving, and now writer/director Barry Jenkins keeps it going with the wonderfully understated Moonlight. With little to no star power, not a single explosion, and nary a special effect, it relies solely on dialogue and performances (and Jenkins’ own outstanding direction) to tell its story, and it does so flawlessly.

Presented as a three-part tale, based on the play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight revolves around Chiron, a young black man in Miami. Part one opens with him as an elementary-school kid, teasingly nicknamed “Little” by his classmates and being chased by bullies after school. Little (Alex Hibbert) escapes to an abandoned crack den, where he is soon discovered by local dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali). Little instantly latches onto Juan and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae), foregoing the unsettled life he’s used to, being raised by his drug addict mother Paula (Naomie Harris). Juan and Teresa take in Little willingly, giving him not only food and shelter but and the love that the boy clearly isn’t receiving at home. Little, though, isn’t immune to his surroundings—he’s fully aware of his mom’s demons, and when he puts two and two together and realizes how Juan’s profession ties in, we’re witness to one of the film’s most heartbreaking moments.

The second part progresses to Chiron’s teenage years, as he navigates high school. Aston Sanders takes over the role, and his quiet expressiveness further elevates the film. Dealing not only with the ongoing bullying and his mother’s worsening addiction, Chiron is also now confronting the fact that he’s a young, black, gay man in the hood. Though he finds a kindred spirit in Kevin (Jharrel Jerome), their friendship and mutual understanding isn’t enough to overcome the inherent prejudices.

Moonlight wraps up with a grown Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) continuing his personal struggles in Atlanta. When he gets an out-of-the-blue phone call from Kevin (André Holland), it rekindles thoughts and emotions Chiron (now going by his street name “Black”) had clearly left behind. The two meet up, and Moonlight spends the better part of twenty minutes presenting the pair in nothing but an honest conversation. It’s an absolutely refreshing, entirely pure moment, instantly reminding us of the power of phenomenal acting when paired with a fearless script.

Further powering the film is the brilliant score by Nicholas Britell. A pseudo-classical tour de force, it gives Moonlight its identity, always bubbling just underneath without getting in the way. And Jenkins supplements it with as eclectic a mix of music as you could find, including a choral piece by Mozart, a 1963 doo-wop hit, and a hard-hitting hip-hop track by Goodie Mob.

Jenkins filmed Moonlight in an almost documentary style, giving us a first-person look at Chiron’s world, both through his eyes and those of the people around him. We watch over his shoulder as he walks down the street, stare directly into his mother’s eyes as she yells at him, and become otherwise completely immersed in his world. When Juan teaches Little how to swim, we’re splashing alongside in the choppy ocean. When Black sees Kevin for the first time in a decade, we see what he sees. It’s a masterful move by Jenkins giving Moonlight both an immediacy and a tenderness not often seen on film.

The film is the epitome of people-driven storytelling and a true masterpiece. It looks as though it took no effort at all to produce, but that’s its genius.


5/5 stars

'Moonlight' trailer


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      3 years ago

      It is one of the worst movie i have seen. The camera man made me dizzy going around in circles, some of the acting was good but all in all difficult to understand their language. Slow in movement and in talk. Not worthy of an award. LaLa Land so much better.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)