The greatest films are those that comprehend the distinction amongst words and photos. In theatre there is no difference: stage imagery’s purpose is to empower the playwright’s words. But in cinema the stated and the noticed — even when fugally interconnecting — dwell in diverse spheres.
How? Why? By what manner or magic? Go and see Moonlight. (Or Vertigo, or L’Avventura, or 2001 . . .) Barry Jenkins’s marvellous film is a poem of light and colour, of faces and the play of physique, of passions revealed by glance or gesture. Where its dialogue is all shy withholding or plain statements camouflaging mystery or the unsaid, its visuals — and the music with its matching abstract expressiveness (soul and rap to classical) — define the drama and its which means.
Adapting a play by gay African-American dramatist Tarell Alvin McCraney, Jenkins tells his tale in nearly literal “moving pictures”. If the shy black boy from Miami who grows by means of 3 story stages — successively chapter-headed “Little”, “Chiron” (his actual name) and “Black” — appears diverse in every single and is played by diverse-looking actors, it is since change is being produced pictorial. Like the altering worlds he moves by way of.
He is gay, but closeted. His 1st planet is a bright, wide spot peopled by friends, enemies or mysterious conflations of each. Mum (Naomie Harris) is a drug addict. A bling-wearing dealer (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend half-adopt him. There’s an amazing swimming lesson scene — element baptism, portion pietà (the boy carried into the sea in the surrogate father’s arms) — exactly where the camera bobs beside them in the water like some companion celebrant, immersed in wonder.
The boy goes by way of initiations. In portion two, by the code of the playground, he need to fight his greatest or only buddy, Kevin. He has already been blessed into adore, furtive but transforming, by a sexual encounter with Kevin. (The lyricism of the forbidden, on a beach at night, is directed with gorgeous discretion.) Ahead of that we have observed Chiron change from a bug-eyed twig of a kid, played by Alex Hibbert, to a gangly introverted teen (Ashton Sanders). In element 3, bulked up, he is Black (Trevante Rhodes), a dealer initiated into gangland — but a lonely, puzzled heart even now. 1 day he receives a get in touch with from the long-unseen Kevin.
Picture and epiphany reality and revelation. Even morality is mapped by what is shown, not mentioned. Drug-dealing is condemned in the portrait of its victim, Chiron’s mother. Homosexuality is accepted, even sanctified, in the depths that adore sounds in the boy. At the finish we recognise Black’s enchanted trepidation, as he walks across a café’s auto park at night to his reunion with Kevin, because that car park is a rain-puddled mirage of reflected colours (neon indicators, street lights), diurnal but fantastical. When they meet, words are awkwardly muttered, but words barely matter. That is accurate in life often and cinema often. The eyes have it. The words dance attendance, annotations to a larger harmony.