Thursday 23 February 2017

Moonlight .. Atmospheric and meditative

IN Richard Linklater's Boyhood, viewers see the transformation of an actor playing a kid over the years. In writer-director Barry Jenkins's Moonlight, viewers see the transformation of a character played by three actors in pre-pubescent, teenage and adult years.
   This is a delightfully slow and atmospheric film that washes over you with its great acting, long takes and rocking soundtrack.

    It's a coming-of-age story about a poor, black kid in a depressed Miami neighbourhood who grows up unsure of himself and his sexuality, but eventually learns that he must follow his heart.
  What amazes me is Jenkins ensuring that all three characters exhibit the same personality, that is, quiet and hardly saying a word, but yet showing great emotion with their body language and sensitive eyes.
   In fact, in the third (adult) part, someone who knew the protagonist when he was in high school says:
Hope floats for Little with Juan  (Mahershala Ali).
"You haven't changed. Still can't say more than three words at a time."
  The song that opens on the radio in the film is Boris Gardiner's Every Nigger Is A Star reflects Jenkins's love for his characters and the area in which the film takes place. I encourage readers to check out the film's original soundtrack on Spotify. The music and photography play a big part in ensuring the film's meditative mood.
   It's rare to see a film about a black man's life in US films, and it's rarer to see film nearly devoid of whites.
    In the first act, Little (Alex R. Hibbert), 9, is a sullen and withdrawn kid who's bullied because of his frail size. He lacks love from his single mum Paula (Naomie Harris), whose first desire is to satisfy her drug addiction.
   Little finds it in an unlikely source, a drug dealer, Juan (Mahershala Ali), who wears a bandana at all times and who takes a liking to him.
    Juan can't cajole anything out of him in an eatery, so he takes the kid home to meet his petite and ravishing girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe), who also gives him food and attempts to squeeze something out of him.
   Little being silent while eating will be repeated in the third act in a restaurant.
Kevin and Chiron sit tight.
  The first act's main scene comes when Juan takes Little to swim in the ocean. He keeps Little floating, telling the kid to trust him. Little is afraid because he's never depended on anyone in his few short years.
   Juan, who knows that the kid is different, later tells him: "At some point, you gotta decide for
 yourself who you want to be. You can't let anybody decide for you."
  The boy will struggle with this statement for a long time.
   The second act shows Little, now known as Chiron (Ashton Sanders), 16, as a skinny teenager who's still being bullied. His mum is still a no-good junkie, so he's happy to spend time with Teresa, but there's no word about Juan.
   He gets along with Cuban-American Kevin (Jharell Jerome), who shares an affinity with him.
  The third act shows Little as Black (Trevante Rhodes), a muscular man who likes to pump iron and deal drugs in Atlanta.
    Kevin, now a cook, prepares a meal for Black, and the music that accompanies him preparing the meal is usually heard in gentle love-making scenes.
   Ali displays a solid performance, showing great empathy for a kid who would have probably have been left by the roadside if it hadn't been for his intervention. His sea scene with Little is
Black and Kevin have a silent meal.
the film's best moment.
   Harris also does a good job playing an unsympathetic mum whose first goal in life is to get high. Her rants and anger are believable.
  Moonlight says that people want companionship, love and physical contact. Some may wait 10 years for that fleeting moment of passion and intimacy to recur, but that it's certainly worth the wait.

4 stars out of 5



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