Moonlight :: Uncommonly Beautiful Film About Love and Identity…

Considering it's set in a world of poverty, crack addiction and bullying, Moonlight is a breathtakingly beautiful and achingly poetic film.

It could in fact be said to be a film about finding beauty in ugly places. It's about how acts of love shine through everything, and about how the rarer they are, the greater the effect they have. It's about how sometimes little boys who are neglected and mistreated can still manage to winkle enough good stuff out of life to grow into good men. Albeit with bad habits. It's about human beings' natural propensity for love, against all the odds.

In Moonlight, we get to know one character in three different phases of his life. First as a bullied 9-year old who befriends a local well-to-do drug-dealer and his girlfriend; second as a bullied teen coming to terms with his sexuality; then as a young man, hardened on the outside and no longer bullied, but still yearning for love.

Cineville - Moonlight


Although the milieu is familiar enough, Moonlight is so fresh and free from cliché that it feels like something new. Plus, in terms of the character trajectory, my expectations were repeatedly confounded, which is always a pleasure.

Visually, the film is hypnotic and sumptuous. The dark blues and violets of the moonlight of the title pull you in and cloak you like a dream. Then there are the harrowing scenes with Chiron's mum at her crack-addled worst, one in particular, backlit from her bedroom with strips of fluorescent fuchsia like she's screaming at her sweet, sensitive son from inside the very guts of hell.

Then there's the nervy handheld camerawork and flickering light. Moonlight is a film that flickers with emotion from start to finish.

It's a film about finding your way, finding your own way and not just moulding yourself to what other people expect or demand of you.

It also has a brilliant, barbaric yawp of a revenge scene — a beautifully powerful moment of catharsis that is violent but also, simultaneously, hardly violent at all, and really quite muted.

In the film's third act, we learn how formative this momentary yawp turns out to be. It also stands as the emotional bookend of the nearest the film comes to a sex scene, which again, is extremely muted in terms of action — very little happens. And yet, like the whole film, it's extremely charged emotionally.


I was reminded while watching the scene on the beach of the sex scene in Allied, which took place in a car in a sand storm. It was interesting that although the sex scene in Allied featured an actress to whom I am powerfully physically attracted, I found her sex scene with Brad Pitt less erotic than the scene in Moonlight, which featured two teenage boys. And that comes down not to any latent homosexuality on my part, but to Truth. Yep. Truth with a capital T. Everything about Allied is fake. Everything about Moonlight rings totally true.


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Cineville - Moonlight


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The Viewing

It happened. The situation I described in the Jackie viewing write-up. To wit, my favourite seat was taken and I was allocated the one right next to it, right next to another human being.

In many of the Cineville cinemas, the middle two seats of the front row are missing. This results in seat perfection for seats 6 and 7 in row 2. Not only are they generally the perfect distance from the screen (when row 1 is often just a tad too close), but also they have the legroom advantage of the front row. (Having said that, legroom has never thus far been a problem in Dutch cinemas — they're all very spacious.)

Anyway, they're my favourite two seats and if I get them — which I usually do, as Dutch people tend to prefer to watch from a distance — then I'm very pleased.

This evening, however, seat number 7 was already taken and in response to a casual 'somewhere close by' from me, I was allocated the seat right next to it: seat number 6.

Needless to say, I sat in seat number 5. But even that felt too close.

I can't be alone in this though, can I? Is it an English thing? What would an American do? Surely most people would leave at least a single chair's space, if there was nobody else on the row?

It just feels invasive otherwise. 

Personal space, man. 

Oh, and the guy who got the best seat was a code-breaking bastard, and must have checked his mobile phone at least a dozen times during the film. 

About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you’ll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven’t already.

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