“Moonlight” illuminates cinema

PHOTO/FREETOPMOVIE

Michael Ambrosino, General Manager, Entertainment Editor

Don’t you love it when movies make you feel something? That’s what makes cinema great, after all – it has the power to communicate thoughts and feelings and emotions, which ultimately generate an authentic response from the viewer. That’s the true beauty and artistry of film (and all entertainment, for that matter), and this year’s terrific, heart-breaking film “Moonlight” is a testament to that fact.

This is a wonderful movie, directed with great skill by Barry Jenkins and acted to pitch-perfection by the three performers playing the lead character, Chiron: Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes.

It’s a tough and often terribly sad viewing experience, as it depicts the struggles of bullying and isolation being inflicted upon a young boy, but one that’s brutally honest and emotionally valid.

“Moonlight” tells its story in three acts: “Little,” “Chiron” and “Black,” where we, the audience, walk alongside the lead character as a child, teenager and adult, respectively.

In all three acts, we’re taken through both the dark moments and light moments in Chiron’s life as a gay person struggling to find his place in a rough neighborhood.

Thanks to the three lead performances,  and writer/director Barry Jenkins’ tremendous attention to detail, we’re reeled into the head of Chiron almost instantaneously. The film is stylized but not to a fault, as it maintains its realism and remembers its characters and the story it’s telling.

However, Jenkins’ approach to “Moonlight,” visually and stylistically, is absolutely riveting and lends quite a bit of detail and substance to the narrative and the harsh world as seen from the point-of-view of Chiron.

All of these elements in “Moonlight” – from the cinematography and overall visual aesthetic to the unsettling music and outstanding jobs of acting – helps us see the world as Chiron sees it.

For example, the first two acts of “Moonlight” look and feel very cold. The color scheme appears very blue, and I think the intention of this visual approach is to convey the feeling of sadness that haunts Chiron.

Another example is the music, which is haunting and unsettling, appropriately so because that’s the environment Chiron is forced to live in.

All three performers – Alex R. Hibbert as Chiron in “Little,” Ashton Sanders in “Chiron” and Trevante Rhodes in “Black” – break through, here.

They’re all wonderful but what’s most admirable about them is that they each nail Chiron’s mannerisms perfectly. The character has a very distinct personality; he walks, talks and moves a certain way, and each actor at different ages match that personality precisely.

“Moonlight” is one of the very best films of 2016 and an amazing offering from filmmaker Barry Jenkins. He’s a director to keep an eye on.