Finally, I get to swoon over Moonlight. I’ve talked about it for months, since its UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival.
I loved it then, played the Barbara Lewis track Hello Stranger on my radio show, and eulogised over this precious gem of a film. I’ve seen it twice since and I could happily see it a few times more – I’m getting to know it off by heart.
Which tells you something, because Moonlight is more like a poem, a song, a lyric than a movie. That doesn’t mean to say it’s not cinematic – it is all movie, but unfurls in a fresh and beguiling way, in fragments and feelings. Take your cue from that poster, a collage of three faces making up one man. Who is you? is the question that’s used like a chorus throughout…
Moonlight tells the story in three chapters of a boy called Little, then a teenager called Chiron and finally a man called Black. He’s played by three different actors who don’t necessarily look alike.
It’s about his growing up different in a poor part of Miami. Little’s Mom is a crack addict (Naomie Harris, terrific) and he’s taken under the wing of a smooth local dealer (Mahershala Ali, awesome). Little gets beaten up at school.
So does Chiron, especially when he wrestles with his sexuality and a crush on a boy named Kevin, and an encounter by moonlight on the beach. It leads to issues at school and a confrontation with a bully that’ll have you choking.
But it’s the third act that slays me every time, when he’s grown into a hulking man (Trevante Rhodes) putting gold fronts on his teeth, acting like a man in the manner of the only role model he ever had.
He meets up with an old flame in a diner and eats the chef special and listens to the juke box. It’s one of the great love scenes, seriously.
I always wondered if Moonlight had enough oomph to carry its delicate frame through awards season. Now (and you know how much I love La La Land) I’m actually thinking it’s got all the steel it needs to actually win Best Picture, despite the shut out at the BAFTAs last weekend – look, I love Dev Patel but no way is his performance on a level with Mahershala Ali here, or anywhere for that matter.
Moonlight is new cinema, mysterious and liquid, cool and tender, achingly soulful, sexy and sexual, yearning and oh so human. It’s what the singers sing about, and the poets write about. It is love.