Quick Thoughts: Moonlight
Three chapters of a man’s life following his struggle to find his place in the world as a child, teen and adult.
Moonlight is a concentrated, subdued drama, one that takes its subject matter seriously and projects it in a sometimes captivating manner. It is thus a film that will inevitably continue to be granted much critical acclaim. However, like 2015’s Spotlight or Carol, this film will probably fade into obscurity pretty fast. Who’s to know if it’ll make a later resurgence, but I don’t see that happening. This comes down to the design of this movie as one centred on heavy subjects, such as identity and sexuality, but also one without much thematic resonance. This is a subjective point of criticism as I’m sure this film will resonate with people differently, but, personally, I was never really moved by Little/Chiron /Black as a character and so never developed much empathy or interest in him. This comes down to the film’s structure. The first chapter does an excellent job of introducing characters as well as themes of childhood and being different as a kid. This is done through ambiguity, us never really being explicitly told the details of characters lives, rather being left to figure them out for ourselves. And it’s this ambiguity written into the narrative that melds perfectly with the camera work which is often handheld with a very shallow focus. This brings us very close to characters, blurring the background, giving a personal tone to this movie and a sense of entrapment. All of this assists the structuring of the first chapter as there is a tension built through which we truly understand Little’s internal conflicts. The opening chapter then does a great job of introducing the story and setting up the audience to fall into Chiron’s story. However, this is only sustained partially through the second chapter. It’s at this point where Chiron’s internal conflicts are somewhat externalised with him having to confront bullies and engage in relationships. This isn’t handled well, however. There is no depth or swelling tension in this second sequence, in such, the antagonists are forgettable and the stakes aren’t very engaging. When we then move into the third and final chapter the first two chapters are seriously devalued and turned into mere character exposition or back story. This is because there is no real follow up or compelling build of character across all three chapters – especially for the peripheral figures. The majority of antagonists just fall away, as does Chiron’s father figure and friends, Chiron’s mother is simply checked in on and Black himself (a.k.a Chiron and Little) really hasn’t become much. And it’s the adult version of our protagonist which is the least interesting. There is a constant focus on his internal conflicts, his inner emotions, but this is projected, through cinematic language and the script, in a very bland manner, making the personal tone and sense of entrapment generated by the camera work restricting and very grating which emotionally distances us from the narrative and disengages us. The last chapter of Moonlight is thus very tiresome, leaving us with a final sequence that is incredibly underwhelming and a lasting sense that this is a pointless film. All subjects raised are ultimately given very little exploration and the character work is far too tame for true emotional resonance. In such, there wasn’t much nuance or detail to Chiron that made him more than a figure on the screen and words on a page, nor was there much punch, impact or intricacy given to the projection of thematic points in this film beyond a bits of colour symbolism.
All in all, Moonlight is a film with a facade that presents itself as important, but, beyond the skin of beautiful cinematography and some great acting, the belying story is one with weakly presented themes that leaves the overall film a flat experience. If we make a quick comparison to Blue Is The Warmest Colour, which has similar themes of identity and sexuality, we see a film that has a much better control of character and so projects emotional themes of isolation, romance, growth and self-discovery in a much more poignant manner. This is simply what Moonlight lacks. So, whilst you can’t say this is, at all, a bad film, it really isn’t one worth revisits. However, this is just my reading, what are your thoughts?
Island Of Flowers – Freedom
Moonlight/Pulp Fiction/Wild Tales – Abandoning The 3 Act Structure
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