I’ve heard rumblings of Moonlight for many months now, since movie critics started mentioning its first appearances in movie festivals. And then suddenly it was being nominated for major awards, appearing in all of the end-of-the-year top movie lists, and now, in February 2017, it’s arrived in Australia.
I had a fun little experience leading up to seeing it. I was offered by Roadshow Films to see the premiere (I was still on Christmas holidays) but then got sent some free movie passes, and three more pairs of tickets to give away. I offered them up through Facebook, reaching far more interested friends than I would have gotten through Twitter or Instagram, and used a website that does random selections to choose the winners. It was fun.
We finally saw the film this weekend and my, oh my, is it good. I was influenced by what I’d read which I remember said either it was impressionistic or lacked narrative (but was beautiful) and that there was a sad ending. But I didn’t find this. It had a strong narrative, as we watch a Chiron as a boy, a teenager and as a man, and though the circumstances in the film are sad generally – the poverty, the drug selling and addiction, the violence – there is a moment of redemption that however long it lasts is so very sweet.
The film is bathed in beautiful colours; filmed beautifully and the actors are superb. There is something amazing in the writing and the acting for one of the main themes of the film to be the inability to talk, to express oneself; it linked the actors so strongly together that in the last third of the film, I found myself for a moment really believing that only one actor rather than three had presented this life.
I’d also have to say that this was one of the most interesting and subtle depictions of gay sexuality and identity, or the suppression of both. The script is not hiding that Chiron is recognised by other young boys as different from them, that he is bullied because of his sexuality as a teenager, that his longing for a man’s touch hurts him so much as an adult.
But the film is about so much more in how real it feels, the specificities of experience, the many complex emotions it renders and brings up, and this very tough setting with moments of quiet and moonlight that peak in from time to time.
I loved it.