Continuing our series of retrospectives on the Oscars’ 2016 Best Picture nominees, we will be covering the winner of the award, Barry Jenkins’ ‘Moonlight’, starring a cast entirely of POC, including Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert, Mahershala Ali, among others. Based on the play “In Moonlight Black Boys look Blue”, the movie features a fantastic screenplay by director Barry Jenkins who does an outstanding job adapting the play, this is a prime example of a fantastic adaption.
‘Moonlight’ follows the three-act journey of its main character Chiron, portrayed by a different actor in each act, the three being named, “Little”, “Chiron”, and “Black”. He struggles through his life with the help of Juan (Mahershala Ali), Teresa (Janelle Monae) and his childhood friend, Kevin, who we also see across the different stages of Chiron’s life.One thing I love about this film is its focus on its characters. Every single main character in this film is portrayed and written wonderfully andwith real heart and invention. You understand why they do what they do, their intentions, their motivations, it’s all made abundantly clear to the viewer. The movie also isn’t afraid to realistically portray Chiron’s world. As a black person who grew up similarly to Chiron, I can easily relate to his surroundings.
Chiron is played phenomenally by Hibbert, Sanders and Rhodes. Alex Hibbert shows off the innocence and wondering side of Chiron, Ashton Sanders his damaged side, and Trevante Rhodes brilliantly shows the toughenedside. Sanders is my favorite, but all three actors breathe life into our main character. The actors have all stated they didn’t meet until after filming had finished and this comes across in the way that each actor continues the story but has their own interpretation of the character and how his experiences would have affected him. Straight from the beginning of the film, you are put in his shoes, and you can relate despite your race or sexuality.
The other characters are also done well, with a standout being Naomie Harris as Chiron’s mother, Paula. She delivers a fantastic performance, and the scene with adult Chiron at the treatment center is one of my favorite within the film. Kevin, Chiron’s love interest and friend, is played by three different actors as well, and they all do a great job, especially Jharrell Jerome. Juan and Teresa (Ali and Monae), are great in their roles, albeit not very big ones, but they do the story justice, and play a great part in making this movie as beautiful as it is. Mahershala Ali in particular, despite his relatively minor role, leaves a lasting and meaningful affect upon the plot and he was the deserved winner of “Best Supporting Actor”.
Barry Jenkins delivered a film straight from the heart with ‘Moonlight’, which is an incredibly important film for its time, and a well-made one in all aspects. This film puts its characters first, and that’s the magic of it. It is beyond deserving of Best Motion Picture, and will easily go down as one of my favorite movies of all time, as well as one of the all time greats.
Written by Jeremy Wilkerson – @JeremyRalphael on Twitter