Moonlight seems to be trying something clever and different but in doing so makes some bizarre choices. To begin with, it tells it’s story of one individual in three clear chapters, each covering a different part of his life. This has been done before and is a very good way to convey a life story and a character’s arc but the choices of the story are randomly dull.
You don’t realise immediately how dull a choice each one is until it moves to next chapter. The first chapter is central character Chiron as a small boy, appropriately nicknamed Little, as it showcases the difficulties he faces as a child; bullied, alone and finding solace in a kindly drug-dealer. It makes for an interesting watch and will keep your attention but only because you are waiting for the “pay-off” and it soon becomes clear that there won’t be one.
The next chapter is Chiron as an adolescent and this does show more promise. His life has changed in places but only to become more complicated. This middle chapter is the strongest and has a clear story to tell. A movie set purely in this area would have been much more interesting and the performances are at their best here too, especially from Chiron’s Mother, played by Miss Moneypenny herself, Naomie Harris.
Unfortunately, just as the tale seems to be taking an interesting turn, the third chapter begins and Chiron becomes a man. This offers it’s own issue as there is a clear disconnect in character. The character from the first two chapters doesn’t seem to be the same person in the third and there is little to no explanation why. Add to this a quite dull third story after all and the movie culminates into nothing.
The strength of Moonlight clearly isn’t in the story but does lie with the performances. The three Chiron’s play their part well, particularly the teenage version of the character, played by Ashton Sanders, who has the most to do dramatically. Mahershala Ali got the Oscar nomination for his performance and it is strong, bringing something more complicated and sympathetic to a potentially one-dimensional character.
It isn’t enough to keep the movie interesting though. The story is too slow and doesn’t do enough which is different. Stories of a life told in many different parts across different stages of life has been done before and unfortunately, much better.
Overall, Moonlight holds great performances within a poor story. Three chapters vary hugely in quality and entertainment, with the middle chapter holding the best of the stories and the best performances. It isn’t strong enough to save the movie though.
Rating – 2.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)