Sasha saw Moonlight this morning in Telluride and we’ll have her review online momentarily. In the meantime, here’s a look at what other critics are saying:
Benjamin Lee‘s 5-star review in The Guardian UK is headlined: “Devastating drama a vital portrait of black gay masculinity in America. Writer/director Barry Jenkins’ bold and uniquely told film about the struggle to accept one’s own sexuality is both heartbreaking and deeply relevant.”
“Stories of LGBT people of colour have been largely ignored in film or at least relegated to the sidelines while instead, we’re offered up the whitewashed history of Roland Emmerich’s tone deaf Stonewall or straight-friendly Oscarbait like The Danish Girl. But, in a festival season that’s too often populated by quite literally vanilla awards fare, writer/director Barry Jenkins’ astonishing new film is both proudly black and refreshingly queer. It’s a thrilling, deeply necessary work that opens up a much-needed and rarely approached on-screen conversation about the nature of gay masculinity…
“Despite the difficult subject matter at hand, Jenkins avoids drowning us in despair. There’s a remarkably unexpected focus on the beauty that surrounds Chiron with moments of soaring wonder so perfectly aligned that there’s something almost Malickian about his marriage of lush music and dreamy imagery. It’s an entirely unique vision and wrongfoots us from the start. Similarly, the script avoids cliche and refuses to paint these characters as the stereotypes they’re so often presented as. Chiron’s surrogate father of sorts, played with exceptional deftness by Ali, confounds our worst Hollywoodised expectations. Rather than training Chiron to run drugs for him or grooming him in a predatory manner, he’s giving swimming lessons and telling him that his sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s yet more levity that helps the film from becoming unrelentingly grim…
“Moonlight is a profoundly moving film about growing up as a gay man in disguise, a difficult and damaging journey that’s realised with staggering care and delicacy and one that will resonate with anyone who has had to do the same. We’re starved of these narratives and Jenkins’ electrifying drama showcases why they are so hugely important, providing an audience with a rarely seen portrait of what it really means to be a black gay man in America today. It’s a stunning achievement.”
“Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight pulls you into its introspective protagonist’s world from the start and transfixes throughout as it observes, with uncommon poignancy and emotional perceptiveness, his roughly two-decade path to find a definitive answer to the question, “Who am I?” While the fundamental nature of that central question gives this exquisite character study universality, the film also brings infinite nuance and laser-like specificity to its portrait of African-American gay male experience, which resonates powerfully in the era of Black Lives Matter.
“Cinematographer James Laxton soaks the film in sleepy, sun-scorched light early on and then burnished, darker tones later, also shifting from unfussy handheld shooting into graceful glides and pans. Immersive intimacy is the key visual note. The clear-eyed, naturalistic look also is punctuated with head-on portraits of principal characters against spare backgrounds, at times in oversaturated colors, a device that feeds the dual embrace of poetry and realism…
“It would be tempting to call Moonlight an instant landmark in queer black cinema, if that didn’t imply that the experience it portrays will speak only to a minority audience. Instead, this is a film that will strike plangent chords for anyone who has ever struggled with identity, or to find connections in a lonely world. It announces Jenkins as an important new voice.”
Eric Kohn, Indiewire
“Moonlight” is a deep tragedy that’s told in passing glances. Rich with evocative images and tender exchanges, writer-director Barry Jenkins’ treatment of Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” is a beautiful drama that manages to be both epic and understated. “Moonlight” explores the plight of a young black man across three eras, searching for his place in the world while struggling with his gay identity under the burdens of class and a broken family. The story’s power comes from the gaps between words — and an ongoing battle to find the right ones…
“Complemented by cinematographer James Laxton’s smooth camerawork, “Moonlight” captures a series of moods as if they were stanzas: Jenkins finds elegance in shadowy exchanges at late-night street corners bathed in yellow and black, then finds similarly expressive qualities at an all-night diner. His filmmaking is a grab bag of meaningful details, but there’s no doubting the confidence of a storyteller in full control of the material.
“Such an eye-opening entry in the ever-neglected arena of black cinema arrives at a critical moment — the tail-end of the Obama era, when diversity has become a keyword and discussions of racial turmoil have reached a fever pitch. “Moonlight” transforms rage and frustration into unadulterated intimacy. In this mesmerizing portrait of a suffocating world, the only potential catharsis lies in acknowledging it as Chiron so deeply wishes he could. Despite the somber tone, “Moonlight” is a beacon of hope for the prospects of speaking up.”
And we’ll end with this:
Good Christ Moonlight is good. One of the best films I’ve ever seen.
— Sasha Stone (@AwardsDaily) September 5, 2016