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Opening Date
27 Apr 2017
M18 Some Homosexual Content
111 mins
English with no subtitles
Barry Jenkins
Naomie Harris, André Holland, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe, Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome
A timeless story of human connection and self-discovery, Moonlight chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami. At once a vital portrait of contemporary African-American life and an intensely personal and poetic meditation on identity, family, friendship, and love, Moonlight is a groundbreaking piece of cinema that reverberates with deep compassion and universal truths. Anchored by extraordinary performances from a tremendous ensemble cast, Barry Jenkins’s staggering, singular vision is profoundly moving in its portrayal of the moments, people, and unknowable forces that shape our lives and make us who we are.
By Thompson Wong  28 Apr 2017
Moonlight should well be lauded for its ability to combine artistic nuance and technical excellence.
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Moonlight, having drawn so much hype in the lead-up to its most famous accolade - the Best Picture Oscar – is tricky to review, much like all other award-winning films. Praise almost seems expected in the face of collective critical acclaim. But does it truly measure up?

A coming-of-age story, the film is told in three parts following the life of Chiron, a young black man growing up in Miami. Played by Alex Hibbert as the boy, Ashton Sanders as the teen and Trevante Rhodes as the adult, we witness Chiron’s journey as he struggles with numerous hardships: bullying, drug abuse and a flawed relationship with single mother Paula (Naomie Harris).

It’s hard to identify any positives in the story, given Moonlight’s complex subject matter. Much like reality, there are no heroes here – just lives lived imperfectly. Writer-director Barry Jenkins’s sensitive hand places the audience squarely in Chiron's discomfort, but his own direction is faultless. The visual grammar here is sheer perfection. Moments of tension blend smoothly with contrasting silence, while bobbing camera angles swoop urgently between disarming close-ups and moody landscapes.

Plenty has been said about the movie’s homosexual content, but Moonlight is so much more than this label. Compassion and redemption is a central theme here. It occurs fleetingly – in Juan (Mahershala Ali), Chiron’s surrogate father-figure, Juan’s girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe), Chiron’s forgiveness towards his crack-addicted mother, and Chiron’s reconciliation with a childhood friend. Nothing is black and white. Instead, the actions undertaken by the characters in Moonlight seem to be guided invisibly, in morally questionable shades of grey.

But in the end, Moonlight feels to me a personally polarising film. It should well be lauded for its ability to combine artistic nuance and technical excellence. Jenkins has charted his unconventional subject masterfully. Winning the Oscar can only be a good thing for directors, actors and screenwriters in a film industry rife with complaints about ‘whitewashing’ and stereotyped roles. Yet I depart the cinema unsure if Moonlight is truly deserving over La La Land, whose musical meditations on pursuing one’s dreams seem more universally relatable. However, Singapore’s decision to rate the film M18 and pass it uncut is sensible albeit a rare one, which should compel audiences to enjoy this film while they can.
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