‘Moonlight’ Expands to Theaters Nationwide Ahead of Academy Awards

Hayden Weber, VHS Writer

The Oscar-Nominated Frontrunner achieves in powerful acting, cinematography, and music

Many dramas have been released in the last year that explore and perpetrate different ideas of love, acceptance, and fear, but none of them do it as effective as Barry Jenkin’s new character driven drama, Moonlight.

Alex R. Hibbert plays a young Chiron in Moonlight.
Photo Courtesy of A24 Productions.

Moonlight tells the story of an African-American man named Chiron throughout different stages of his life in three acts. Act I, entitled Little, introduces viewers to a child version of Chiron (played by Alex R. Hibbert), a young boy who face abuse from his heroin-addicted mother Paula (played by Naomie Harris) and first faces acts of racism. Act II, entitled Chiron introduces the audience to teenaged Chiron (now played by Ashton Sanders).He comes to terms with himself as he questions his sexuality and deals with abuse from his classmates daily. The final act, entitled Black, follows adult aged Chiron (played by Trevante Rhodes) as he reconnects with an old lover and deals with the emotional scars he still carries from his childhood abuse.

Hibbert, Sanders, and Rhodes all embody a certain emotional appeal that viewers truly care about their character, Chiron. The depth and development of this character makes it hard to look away. By the time Moonlight is over, viewers truly feel like they have been on a journey watching this character grow.

“The story is really about who he is, and finding love,” said Trevante Rhodes in an interview with Hollywood Reporter. “There would be moments where I felt like I was this person and I knew this person’s struggle.”

Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris are both nominated for Academy Awards for Best Performance by an Actor or Actress in a supporting role, and undoubtedly so. All of the performances in Moonlight are raw and real and ground the film in a way that feels human. There is one powerful and devastating scene in particular where Harris’s character, Paula attempts to rob her teenage son, Chiron in order to get money to purchase drugs.

“I like to see all of the films nominated for Oscars so I had to go see Moonlight,” said senior Brene Kibbe. “I thought it was really moving and overall a really great movie. It’s definitely not a movie for everyone though.”

Cinematographer James Laxton adds small, but important details in Moonlight that shape the cinematic landscape of the film. Laxton uses dark color gradients and hues to develop a dreary feeling throughout the film and the audience can truly feel it.

“The idea for us on set, at a base level, is to create an expose that allows us to get into the Digital Intermediate,” said Laxton in an interview with IndieWire. “There were greater opportunities to lose detail in potentially underexposed parts of the frame.”

On top of the amazing performances, Moonlight has an original score like no other. The symphonic soundtrack written and performed by Nicholas Britell packs a punch in every scene it is featured in. It is loud, vigorous, and impactful, and is one of the main components of what makes Moonlight such a cinematic experience, and demonstrates how important music is to a film.

While the film’s final act falls short of living up to the first two acts that precede it, Moonlight is an effective film that feels relevant and timeless to today. It may not always easy to watch, but it develops such an open discussion about race, sexuality, and abuse, that it should not be missed.