This is a story of a young man who’s always had a hard time fitting in. In this film viewers get a rare glimpse of the challenging boyhood, adolescence, and adulthood of a poverty-stricken kid from Miami. We’ve seen Miami portrayed in many different ways, but never like this.
There are several ‘coming of age’ films out today, but rarely do they look like this. The challenges of growing up are always complex and generally determined by the world around us. Most would say their childhood was hard, but the story of Chiron is quite different. From the very beginning viewers can tell something is off. He won’t talk, he doesn’t participate in typical child activities, and he’s always lost. Chiron is constantly picked on by his peers, and he doesn’t seem to respond. Instead he just stares. Viewers can’t help but feel sorry for the poor boy. It’s difficult to tell what’s wrong, but the truth comes out soon enough. This film is broken up into three periods of Chiron’s life. In the beginning he’s known as, ‘Little.’ In his teenage years he’s called by his name, Chiron. In adulthood, he’s known as, ‘Black.’ It’s an interesting transition of a young boy who was shaped by the people around him. He doesn’t say much along the way, but his eyes tell his entire story.
During a daily run from the bullies, Little (Alex R. Hibbert) catches the attention of man from the community. Juan (Mahershala Ali) sees the situation and can’t help but intervene. He finds Little hiding in a boarded up crack house, and decides to take him under his wing. Little doesn’t say a word to Juan, but is convinced to follow with the offer of food. It turns out this boy is hungry! Juan tries again and again to get Little to talk or even say his name. He never does, nor does he tell Juan where he lives. Feeling responsible for the boy, he takes him to his home. There his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe) gets him to come inside. With compassion and patience, they still can’t get him to speak. It’s not until the next day Little reveals where he lives. Juan takes him home just as his mother is coming up the steps. Paula (Naomie Harris) is furious and scared for Little. Instead of being thankful, she hurries him inside. This seems to be the end of Little and Juan’s brief friendship, but he shows up the very next day. Juan decides Little needs a man in his life, so he takes him out on occasion. This builds the foundation for who Little/Chiron becomes. Juan’s kindness has no bounds, and he even teaches Little how to swim in the ocean! It’s a baptism of sorts. The only problem is, Juan is a major drug dealer in the very streets where Chiron lives. Even worse, Chiron’s mom is a regular customer… Juan never pushes any drug-related conversation or situation on Little. He actually shields him from it. Instead, he gives him lessons about life, talks about how the boy has the ability to make his own future, and inspires him to grow. This brings us to the second chapter, ii. Chiron.
During his childhood, Chiron makes a friend named Kevin. He’s the same age, but has a lot more confidence and talks all the time. The two become great friends as they fill each other’s voids. This friendship grows as Chiron (Ashton Sanders) becomes a teenager. He’s still super quite, and gets picked on all the time in school. He pretends it doesn’t bother him, but we know it does. Kevin’s always there to give him emotional support, and encourages Chiron to stand up to the bullies. Unfortunately, the bullies set the two up for a nasty fight that doesn’t end well for Chiron. The friendship they’ve built for years gets shattered in a few gruesome punches.
Think Chiron will finally stand up for himself, and teach his bullies and best friend a lesson? How will this harsh adolescence shape the man he becomes in the future? Will his mother ever get her shit together and learn to raise him right? You’ll have to tune in to find out!
Enough about that…Let’s see what’s included with this Blu-ray release.
The menu consists of looping clips from the film. The menu options are listed along the bottom of the screen, and include: Play Movie, Set Up, Scenes, and Special Features. The ‘Set Up’ option allows viewers to choose the audio and subtitle tracks for the film. The ‘Audio’ options include: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and that’s it! The ‘Subtitle’ options are nearly as slim, but also include a Spanish option as well. I guess they figured it would be a limited audience for this film. The ‘Scenes’ option displays three chapters at a time. Each one is numbered and includes a snapshot from the scene.
Now let’s take a look at the Special Features included with this release.
– Audio Commentary with Director Barry Jenkins: With a movie as intimate as this one, listening to the perspective of the Director is a good idea. Some Audio Commentaries are not worth checking out, but Director Barry Jenkins offers some compelling insight on the decisions made in the film. He’s very passionate about the story, and even connects with the main character on many levels.
– Ensemble of Emotion: Making Moonlight (21:37 HD): If you enjoyed the film, you have to watch this feature. It’s touching, real, and almost as tear-jerking as the film. Everyone involved in the film felt very passionate about the story. The three actors who portray Chiron take turns mentioning their contributions to the character. All of the cast and crew chime in too. Nothing but love and compassion from everyone who worked on the film.
– Poetry Through Collaboration: The Music of Moonlight (10:06 HD): The musical score of a film is very important. It can build up anxiety, tension, fear, joy, and so much more. It can even turn on the waterworks for some viewers. The musical score for Moonlight was all that and more. In this feature, viewers get to hear the ideas behind the musical score, and the connection it made with the Director. Hopefully, it makes the connection to the viewer as well.
– Cruel Beauty: Filming in Miami (5:39 HD): Miami was the basis where the idea for the story came from, so it was a no-brainer to film it there. The bright colors of the Miami backdrop gave the film a bright color palette for such a sad story. The original writer of Moonlight called Miami a ‘Beautiful Nightmare,’ which is a perfect description of the vibrancy and horror Chiron had to grow up in. We’ve seen Miami in countless other films, but never like this. From the Writer and Chiron’s experience, it’s raw and cruel, and yet beautiful at the same time. It couldn’t have been filmed anywhere else.
– Trailers (10:45 HD): This feature consists of the several trailers seen at the beginning of this disc.
Now let’s take a look at the technical side of this release.
The 1080p HD Video has an aspect ratio of 2.38:1, so there are black bars along the top and bottom of your HDTV. No need to worry though, as the crisp, clear, and incredibly bright image will make viewers forget about those pesky black bars. That said, the image quality it top notch from beginning to end. The use of a digital intermediate (2K) is obvious, but welcomed with its beautiful clarity. It’s another prime example of what the Arri Alexa XT Plus is capable of. Filming in Miami provided some of the best color schemes I’ve seen in a while. The blues, yellows, greens, whites, oranges, reds and more are insanely vivid. The image is so crystal clear viewers will be able to detect tiny flaws in the actor’s skin during close-up shots. It’s very impressive. Juan’s classic car is super slick with its polished pale blue paint job too. The huge rims shine like no other.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio does a decent job pulling the viewer into the story. This soundtrack is very instrumental and contains beautifully sampled versions of classical music from the likes of Wolfgang Mozart. Chiron’s Theme is a light and compelling track that evolves with the character. For each stage in his life, the theme becomes richer, more complex, and deeper. By the end the violins sound like cellos. The dialog takes place front and center for the most part, but the use of silence is worth nothing as well. The ‘Little’ version of Chiron is very quiet, and in those moments all the emotion and feelings can be seen in his eyes. No music is necessary. The musical score also plays an important role within the relationship of Chiron and Kevin. The track near the end of the film suggests this as well. This is a great sounding transfer.
Overall, Moonlight is well deserving of a viewing from anyone who loves a good film. It provides an insight into a life many folks may simply look past, due to not knowing or understanding the emotions kept within. The character of Chiron is complex and his burdens are deep. He speaks more with his eyes than he does with words. All of the actors in this film did a fantastic job in their roles. The three who portrayed Chiron at different stages in his life were physically different in a lot of ways, but the emotions and intensity behind their eyes were on the same level. What’s crazy is the fact they never really met one another or saw any footage of their acting during the filming. It’s beautiful how it all came together.
If you are looking for a coming-of-age tale from an alternative perspective, don’t hesitate to check out this film. Pick it up on Blu-ray today!