joshhh’s review published on Letterboxd:
And so begins 4QS (Fourth Quarter Season), the year end movies that go up against each other for award's season. Having not been to the theaters since a long and tiring October marathon, I was happy when I found out that Moonlight was coming to my theaters. My theater was actually packed, and this was uplifting because Memphis doesn't tend to do this (especially when Little Men, a film by Memphis native Ira Sachs, was playing right next door) for indie movies and I want this film to succeed. I went in with the luxury of knowing absolutely nothing about this movie, aside from some of the actors. No plot, no director, nothing. And I think that is the best way to go in.
Moonlight is a visual masterpiece. This is the reason we see films. To give an experience unlike any other experience. Director Barry Jenkins doesn't hold your hand as he guides you through this ultimately heartbreaking story, rather he lets you feel the emotions that the characters do. Every character is rich in depth, and filmed in such beautiful detail it makes it hard to believe that Jenkins didn't turn the camera on one day and start filming real people. But this is also an actor's movie, and the right actors are needed to sell this material.
To say the acting is amazing would be an understatement. It's astonishing, it's shocking, it's breathtaking. Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes all build on each other's performances, mimicking movements and certain qualities that only the best actors would catch. Hibbert was probably the standout, as he's very young and he still manages to create one of the most heartbreaking true stories of the bunch. There's between him and two other people near the end of his segment that truly is filmmaking at its finest. Naomie Harris plays her part painfully real, and it's honestly hard to watch her in some scenes. André Holland, who has proven himself to be a talented actor, is great too.
The lighting against a person's skin, the duration of a take, the kinesthetic response between the characters and their spatial relationship all help build something that many movies seem to gloss over: atmosphere. Even the poster represents the phases of a man's life, symbolized by the different shade of color on each actor. The story's an overload of emotions that are piled on top of each other one by one. This is helped by the impressive sound design. There's a motif of sand and waves, and both create a certain feeling every time they're shown or heard. It perfectly epitomizes the deeply-rooted beauty that is inherent in every human being. We all feel this way at some point in our life. Whether it be in our early years or late in our life, we all have a moment of invisibility or doubt in ourselves, and Moonlight represents this time in a person's life with palpable detail, and to great effect.
My only problem, which would ultimately be a nitpick, would be some camera focusing issues I had and one scene where "show don't tell" would of worked better, but it didn't really bother me.
In a time where the possibilities of film are always growing, Jenkins brings us the perfect embodiment of what we seek from film. Moonlight has no agenda, it isn't bound by one genre, and it doesn't appeal to one audience. It isn't always kind but it isn't always upsetting. Moonlight simply just is...