‘Moonlight’ Blu-ray Review: Undoubtedly The Best Picture Of 2016
Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight – which won Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), and Best Picture – tells the story of one man’s life in three parts. The first act shows the main character, Chiron, as an 11 year old boy, nicknamed Little (Alex Hibbert). In the second act, Chiron (Ashton Sanders) is in high school and goes by his birth name, and in the third act he is in his late twenties and goes by the name Black (Trevante Rhodes).
At the center of each act is Chiron’s search for his identity – in his community, in his home, and in his heart. Each act ends in a seminal moment in his life that inevitably affects him – for good or for ill – in the following act.
Moonlight speaks frankly about subjects often ignored in films that find themselves in the center of The Academy’s adulation. Drug addiction, homosexuality, and extreme poverty, all take the spotlight amidst the sprawling beauty of Miami, in which Moonlight is set.
Jenkins does a tremendous job contrasting the extreme poverty of the main characters against the beauty of Miami. Often, the screen is wide open, highlighting the big blue Florida sky, wrought with sunshine and heat. Dwarfed by the sky and the canopy of the palm trees, Chiron faces bleak situation after bleak situation.
Jenkins noted, on the Blu-ray commentary, that most viewers probably had a particular vision of what Miami looked like in the eighties (think Don Johnson on Miami Vice) and that he wanted to show the other side of Miami, the side that he grew up in.
Much of Moonlight, which was adapted from the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, is biographical to both Jenkins and McCraney, who grew up only blocks from each other, although they hadn’t met before making the film.
Their knowledge of the setting and of the characters shines through and makes every moment in Moonlight feel honest and truthful.
Each actor’s performance in Moonlight is superb – from Ali and his portrayal of Juan, the neighborhood drug dealer, to Naomie Harris‘ portrayal of Chiron’s crack-addicted mother, there is no weak-link among them.
Most impressive though, is the performance from all three Chirons. Having never met before filming and having never watched the others perform, Hibbert, Sanders and Rhodes, relied completely on Jenkins’ direction. The end result is spectacular, as it takes very little to believe that all three Chirons are truly one person.
Also tying all three acts together is the film’s score. Composer Nicholas Britell, working closely with Jenkins, crafted a sort of sonic signature that plays in all three acts. Inspired by southern hip-hop, the theme, as the film progresses, gets chopped-and-screwed – a sound editing method that slows the tempo of the song and brings it down several pitches. The result is a song that gets increasingly more haunting while also becoming more lush, deep, and beautiful.
From the honesty of the story to the visuals inside the frame, Moonlight is unlike any movie you are likely to see. Even when actively looking for a flaws in the film, they are incredibly hard to come by. Every shot and every word of dialogue has a clear purpose and when composed together, they make Moonlight the most complete film of the year.
The Blu-ray edition of Moonlight features discussions about the film’s score, characters, and setting with Jenkins, Britell, McCraney, and the entire cast. In addition, it also features full commentary over the film from Jenkins.
WATCH Ali’s uInterview: