This is the story of a lifetime
This is the story of a lifetime


D: Barry Jenkins

A24/Plan B/Pastel (Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner & Jeremy Kleiner)

US 2016

111 mins


W: Barry Jenkins & Tarell Alvin McCraney [based on the unpublished play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" by Tarell Alvin McCraney]

DP: James Laxton

Ed: Nat Sanders & Joi McMillon

Mus: Nicholas Britell

Trevante Rhodes (Adult Chiron / "Black"), Ashton Sanders (Teenage Chiron), Alex Hibbert (Child Chiron / "Little"), Andre Holland (Adult Kevin), Jharell Jerome (Teen Kevin), Jaden Piner (Child Kevin), Naomie Harris(Paula), Mahershala Ali (Juan), Janelle Monae (Teresa)

This review needs to start with the Oscars gaffe being addressed, when the presenters read out the wrong name and the producers of La La Land were named Best Picture, only for the mistake to be corrected during the acceptance speeches and Moonlight to be named as the actual winner.

So, which film is better? La La Land or Moonlight. It's a subjective question, and both films are completely different. The former being a modern twist on musical romance and the latter being a gritty urban drama about sexual and personal identity.

Moonlight is broken into a three act structure, with each act focusing on an age in the life of Chiron, a young black man growing up in Miami, the victim of bullies during his childhood and domestic abuse from his junkie mother.

As a young boy, he spends his days hiding away from those who hurt him and is eventually taken under the wing of a local drug dealer, Juan, who, along with his girlfriend, become a parental figures to the young boy.

The second act shows Chiron as a teenager, where he is still the victim of bullying at school and his sexual identity begins to take shape when he has his first homosexual encounter with a childhood friend. This segment ends with Chiron finally snapping under the pressure and getting his own justice through violence.

The final act follows Chiron as an adult, now a tough drug dealer living in Atlanta and going by the street name "Black", making peace with the ghosts of his past, he becomes reacquainted with his mother, now in rehab, as well as the childhood friend with whom he had his first sexual encounter, which is where the film comes to a rather abrupt and cryptic ending which will leave many audience members thinking "is that it?".

While the end is an acquired taste, there's plenty of symbolism for the ambiguity to be understood, especially with the blue moonlight (a metaphor for homosexuality) and water (a metaphor for change) which run throughout the running time, and though Barry Jenkins does take an artful approach to the subject, he gets the very best out of his cast, especially the trio of actors who play Chiron at different stages of his life, as well as Mahershala Ali, who won a Best Supporting Oscar for his role, and Naomie Harris, who was nominated.

The question still stands: Should La La Land have won Best Picture at the Oscars? Personally, I think it was the better film as a whole, but Moonlight had the better story, as well as being the film that Hollywood were clamouring for the Oscars to have more diversity. It's still all a matter of personal taste.