Love Indivisible

5 Reasons Moonlight Might Just Be The Best Movie Of The Year

Director Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, a depiction of black gay love and coming of age, is a beautiful examination of life. Now with an historic Golden Globe under its belt (not to mention a Gotham Independent Film Award, National Society of Film Critics Award and New York Film Critics Circle Award), there is no way to overlook the impact of this masterpiece of cinema.

Here are five reasons to see this moving film, and five reasons it should win Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards.

1. No Whitewashing

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Ok, somebody has to say it: people of color get massively underrepresented in queer-themed movies. For proof, look no further than last year’s Stonewall, a movie about a real-life historical event that felt a need to inject a fictional pretty white boy into the plot rather than focus on the real-life characters—people of color—as the leads. Moonlight focuses on people of color living in Miami, and the struggles they face within their own communities in coming out and living their lives as gay men and women. The film provides a picture of the LGBT community beyond young 20-somethings, cute kids in glee club or middle class white couples. On that level, Moonlight presents one of the most real portraits of the community in recent years.

2. It Takes on Masculinity

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Though LGBTQ folk have gained the right to marry and enjoy greater visibility and representation than ever before, gay men in particular quarrel among themselves about masculinity. It happens on dating sites, smartphone apps and just about everywhere else—some gay men, terrified of somehow looking weak or less than, stress and promote their masculinity to the point of absurdity. Moonlight deals with that very subject in a stark and poignant way. The scene in which one character beats the man of his affections to impress his friends will no doubt invoke similar, painful memories in a number of male viewers. Moonlight isn’t afraid to show just how damaging the pressure to conform to a certain standard of masculinity can be.

3. The Performances

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Look for Moonlight to capture a good deal of attention come awards season, especially for its performances. Trevante Rhodes and Andre Holland deliver masterful work as the adult incarnations of two childhood friends who became lovers as teens. Naomie Harris, best known for movies like 28 Days Later and the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, also gives an outstanding supporting turn as a crack-addled mother. Hers is one of the most moving performances of the film, and one of its highlights.

4. Janelle Monae Acts

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Speaking of performances, indie pop-techno-jazz singer Janelle Monae makes her acting debut in Moonlight and gives a wonderful performance. Monae’s beauty could have easily distracted from her work here, though she still manages to shed her public persona and become a true character. She has a natural, unaffected warmth that she brings to her role as Teresa, a surrogate mother figure to Chiron, the film’s protagonist.

5. It’s One of the Best Films of the Year

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Finally, more than anything else, Moonlight might just be the best movie of the year. Writer-director Barry Jenkins directs with confidence and sensitivity. His writing style has a beautiful subtlety—characters always seem to say more than what they’re actually saying. Likewise, he and cinematographer James Laxton film the Miami vistas in lush blues and greens, capturing the unmistakable beauty and feel of the city. In a time of a seemingly endless litany of superhero and sci-fi epics, Moonlight offers a thoughtful, original alternative, directed and acted with precision and thought. The movie remembers that despite all the headway the LGBT movement has made in terms of legal acceptance, we still have work to do in the hearts and minds of the American people…beginning with ourselves.

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39 Comments

  • Frank

    I am in awe of Moonlight’s ability to use cinema to reattribute value to stories that historically have been deemed unworthy of attention on the big screen.

    A coming of age story, it chronicles three periods in the life of Chiron, a young black male growing up in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood. Each period is defined by key moments that shape Chiron’s relationship to home, love, sexuality and gender identity.

  • Frank

    Moonlight is a visual meditation that compels us to consider the everyday violence(s) that Chiron navigates and negotiates throughout his life. The film lays bare the corrupting and contaminating terrain of masculinity — its toxicities, its brutalities, its unrelenting banality. It certainly isn’t a love story. It’s a story of robbed innocence, of a trepid, almost smashed adolescence, of a barren adult life. In a world that would otherwise see a boy like [Chiron] disappear, he becomes a man that insists on carving out a life for himself. Your heart will stutter. Your spirit will be moved. Your pants may even swell.

  • Frank

    I took away from Moonlight was just how much I understood the main characters’ choices. I mentioned that while I did not perform quite the same way as Chiron, that I, as a black man who happens to be gay, have adopted my own version of this cool pose in order to survive.

    I realized that very few of us black men are given the space to opt out of enacting some kind of pose or another in order to survive; survive the intra-community violence we experience, and the assaults from the outside world too; the daily anti-black encounters, the homophobia, the hyper-vigilante and hyper-masculine expectations. The implicit and explicit policing of our bodies and its very movements that most of us black men, both gay and straight, learn from jump, schooled by our own and by those outside our communities as well.

  • Jack Meoff

    I can’t wait to see this film but can’t find any information on international release dates. The trailers look amazing.

  • PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID

    Not this again, Queerty! So sick of all the wanging on about this bloody film.
    ;)

  • PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID

    Review sadly somewhat marred by the tendentious SJW shibboleths

  • Herman75

    Certainly a great movie in every way. I will see it again when I can. I didn’t quite agree with Rolling Stone calling it a masterpiece, but maybe I will agree after 2nd viewing.

    I fear this huge buzz creates a set up for failure when it comes to the awards season and Moonlight goes against the huge budget films coming between now and Christmas. I do get the sense that Ashton Sanders’ (#4 above) performance will be recognized by an Oscar nom. His is the character my mind goes back to and the voters will too.

    Did anyone notice Brad Pitt is executive producer?

  • Franklin

    Excellent film, for all the reasons listed above and more. I want to go back and buy another ticket just to support it. Stories like this don’t get told that often, and I am glad that has been received so well.

  • Kangol

    Finally! It’s a very good movie. I love love love part 3, in which the adult Chiron/Black and Kevin reconnect. The tenderness it shows between men, and black men, is so moving it is still resonating for me. The cinematography and acting also are better than almost anything else I’ve seen on US screens this year. More from this director, this writer, and these actors, please!

  • PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID

    @Kangol: interesting. Most people have said part three was the weakest section (though still good). Sure it’s not “Black’s” amazing body swaying you?

  • okiloki

    It was a great film. The mother’s performance and transformation to me was the strongest one in the film, but all of the actors did great. Definitely a movie that you have to be patient with as an audience member, but it is a very touching and eye opening movie. It’s one that captures a level of specific realness that hasn’t been captured on film before. I identified most with Chiron as a teenager, but there is a line in the 3rd act at the end that is really heart breaking and powerful. I saw this in NYC and the theater was almost sold out, with a nice mix of people of all races and ages, although a good percentage were gay, but also a few straight couples.

  • PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID

    @Frank: Actually, I totally agree. Some gay people (the likes of @Baba Booey Fafa Fooey ) are arguing it is regressive if not homophobic for the way it pulls it’s punches on the gay sex. I think they expected porn. They’re conditioned to expect only porn or nothing at all

  • Frank

    @PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID: That is a shame…the movie takes the viewers down a road of self-discovery…sadly many gay movies sale sex first, handsome actors second and meaningful scripts far down the line…it is a trend that has been built on the model of what will sale…it makes sense but it is incredibly predictable…

  • fitnessperks

    Thanks for the review. Look forward to seeing it!

  • Prax07

    Meh, I’ll pass…not interested at all in seeing this film.

  • Realitycheck

    Amazing movie, it starts slowly but before you know you will be locked in, “warning” you will fall in all love with the
    characters; story and acting are that good, it is impossible not to feel for all of them, and as LGBT we are going to
    feel a strong connection to this story no matter our cultural background, race or nationality.
    I am talking about that common human experience of school abuse many LGBT experience growing up.
    An experience that might not end at school but follow us at home… and our evolution as we grow up and we place
    ourselves in society based on our emotional development and sadly look.

  • Realitycheck

    @PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID: Because some people were expecting an happy ending or
    romance of some kind or perhaps a better life style for the main character, but that is not what the movie was about, the ending was
    left purposely open, the future of the characters is up to them and the viewer imagination.

  • kernowcraig

    @Prax07: Kind of how we feel about your comment.

  • Prax07

    And I adore you as well krenowcraig.
    But seriously, this movie looks about as interesting as watching paint dry, and it clearly isn’t aimed at my demographic anyway. I’ll skip this one and go see the Madea Halloween movie instead.

  • Franklin

    @Prax07: I’m just curious what is it about this move the makes you think it is not aimed at your demographic? Are you a gay man?

  • Realitycheck

    @kernowcraig: I would like to know why he felt the need to say that, I guess I already know
    the answer to that…

  • Prax07

    Well let’s see, I’m a white, 38yo, middle class guy from a semi rural area (rural meaning growing up there was one black kid in my school) that has had a recent major influx of poverty level inner city blacks from NY and Philly. So yes, I can’t imagine any scenario where this movie would speak to me in any way. Just because I’m gay and it’s gay themed doesn’t mean it would automatically be on my want to see list, or be on my movie of the year short list.

  • Franklin

    @Prax07: To have to sit through through something that you don’t think relates to you because it doesn’t center around people that look or live like you. How difficult that must be. I wonder what that must be like? Oh wait, I don’t have to wonder, because pretty much every gay man of color in this country has managed to sit through a multitude of tv and films focused exclusively on the lives and experiences of affluent gay white men.

  • Franklin

    @Franklin: You know, I’ve never lived in the country, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying a film like “Brokeback Mountian”. I swear, one of the biggest problems in American culture that would ultimately lead to our downfall is our increasing lack of empathy.

  • Prax07

    Right, lack of empathy all around, I’m the first to admit, I have none. I just don’t care to sit through a black centered drama that I won’t relate to. I can however just go to my local walmart and see loads of black guys on welfare interacting for free, and it won’t take two hours to sit through it. I didn’t care to sit through Brokeback Mountain either, so I didn’t. Got no need to watch a movie about closeted hillbillies screwing around behind women’s backs, got enough of that locally here in real life.

  • Realitycheck

    @Prax07: Come to NYC and you will find lots and lots of hard working good black folks, that by the way are often the most polite people on the block, the welfare stereotype you mention is as bad and as wrong as “all gay guys are flaky and vicious F…s”, and for the record there are more white people on welfare then minorities, and that
    is food for thinking.

  • ErikO

    I want to see this movie.

    @Realitycheck: Yes it’s like this with black people all over the east coast from FL to Boston. The majority of black people are NOT on welfare, assistance, etc. But I know a lot of white people who are.

  • Prax07

    Well we have a saying here, since the influx…We don’t get the Huxtables… meaning we do get the bloods, the banger’s, the meth dealers, etc. We had one that shot a local cab driver (older white guy supporting his wife and kids) in the back of the head because the man was taking the correct route, but the kid thought the man was taking him a longer route to charge him a higher fare. The kid was a recent transplant from Jersey via Philly. That’s just one single example of the problems here now, so, we don’t get the Huxtables here.

  • hassia

    @Prax07: I would wager you are right in your intelligent evaluation that this movie is certainly not for you.

  • Mike999

    “Moonlight” is a really bad movie and ONLY got all the acclaim it has because it is a BLACK gay film, something that is rare. An endless string of cliches from the drug dealer with the golden heart to the picked-upon skinny gay kid to the drug addicted mother who finds grace at the very end so we can have a teary scene…it goes on and on and on, every scene a cliche. Not only do the three actors who play the lead at different ages not look alike, they are SO different it is laughable. As far as acting, there is none. It’s all posing and indicating. This is not a good movie. Like it if you will, but it’s bad movie making.

  • Realitycheck

    What an amazing movie, I encourage everyone to go to see it, if you are gay and you have had bad experiences in school at home or work growing up, because of your sexual orientation, this is movie is for you, I am so grateful to the makers for bringing the reality of growing up gay in a harsh environment to the eyes of the public.
    But it is also a great story with great acting.

  • Realitycheck

    @Mike999: You are wrong it s great gay movie that happen to be about a black man, and in case you forgot, we are all humans and we all have feelings and the same needs, you need to open your extremely closed mind and see what you are blind to, the world is an amazingly diverse place to be.
    The story is truly good because it does reflect the LGBT experience, perhaps that is what is bothering you, how sad.
    And the actors did an amazing job, the only reason the movie did not make more money is because it was a black movie,
    and shame on you for showing so much despicable ra-cial disdain for such a work of art.
    Now we know you really are.

  • solacesoul

    @Prax07: I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you shop at Wal-Mart and you live in a semi-rural town, you’re not quite as middle-class as you think you are.

  • Neonegro

    I have seen the movie.

    It is interesting and enjoyable but it is not a great movie.

    To me it would work best as an after school special.

    If this is the best movie of the year, then I am not missing much by staying away from theaters.

  • Jack Meoff

    I can’t believe Queerty just re-posted the same article from November along with all the original comments instead of bothering to write a knew one. WTF!

  • Herman75

    Glad to see Moonlight continuing to receive attention. By now it would be shocking if a best picture nomination didn’t come this month. But I’m not fooling myself. Is Hollywood really ready to give the Oscar to a gay themed movie? Have my doubts.

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