BY RYAN MACKETT
SUNDAY was the final day of the North of Superior Film Association’s 24th Annual Northwest Film Fest.
NOSFA had a fantastic selection of films to choose from as part of the second day of the festival, including Swiss Army Man, Burn Your Maps, Searchers and The Eagle Huntress, among others. But for me, the film I wanted to see on Sunday was the Best Picture-winning Moonlight.
This was the second time I’ve seen the film; I rented it on Apple TV a few days after the Oscars but I jumped at the opportunity to see it on the big screen and I can tell you that seeing it in the theatre with a massive crowd was an experience.
The film was written and directed by Barry Jenkins, and based on an un-produced play by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The real-life experiences of Jenkins and McCraney also added to the realism and authenticity of the story.
The film highlights three influencing events in the life of Chiron at three different times during his life: as a young boy, as a teenager and as a young man. Chiron was played by three different actors during each stage of his life: Alex R. Hibbert as a child, Ashton Sanders as a teen and Trevante Rhodes as a man.
The cast also features a terrific turn from Naomie Harris as Chiron’s mother Paula and an Oscar-winning performance from Mahershala Ali. While Ali’s role was small, his understated performance was truly deserving of the Academy Award for best supporting actor.
The film has a slow pace and is very contemplative. The dialogue is sparse, relying instead on the actors’ ability to convey the depth of emotion of each character through body language. The audience was given some advice prior to the screening, which was to observe the eyes of the characters. I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment.
The eyes of the characters convey so much more than any line of dialogue could.
I can’t truthfully say that I could relate to the film in the traditional sense. As a straight, white, middle-class, drug-free male, the story being told in Moonlight wasn’t my story. And nor should it be. This is the story of a young boy growing up in a Miami project as he deals with his mother’s drug addiction while struggling with his sexuality and his place in his community as he grows into a man.
What I can truthfully say is that the fact that I was able to empathize with Chiron on such a profound level is a true testament to the incredible talents of the director and actors. The fact that Moonlight doesn’t tell a story that a straight, white, middle-class male can truly relate to is why this film is so vital, timely and important to cinema.
I’m often guilty of using words like amazing, awesome, profound and brilliant when describing films that I have enjoyed.
Rest assured that when you hear Moonlight described in those terms, it truly is reflective of the literal meaning of those words. Highly recommended.
Ryan Mackett is an artist and film enthusiast who resides in Thunder Bay. Email questions or comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.