This last week one of my favorite production companies, A24, released their newest film Moonlight. While over the past few years A24 has really begun to establish themselves in the independent film circuit, Moonlight, much like their last film, American Honey, suffers with some large story issues. While narratively the film struggles at points throughout, the cinematography over the course of the film provided some interesting thoughts and kept viewer engagement at a steady pace.
As previously mentioned, A24 has really made strides in the film world in the last few years and a large part of this success has come from the companies determination to storytelling, but more specifically its focus on the type of stories that Hollywood typically steers far away from such as those about women and minorities. Once again, A24 has cemented this role in Hollywood with Moonlight, which chronicles the life of a young gay black man in Miami. The direct narrative of this film, as a result of its contents, gives the audience the opportunity to experience a story that has not really been fleshed out in film before. However the excitement surrounding the film quickly falters as the narrative issues get in the way of fleshing out the concept. Naturally, since the film resolves around sexuality, the film’s story is inherently character driven, which means that in order for the audience to resonate with the film, they need to establish a connection with the central character. Alas, this does not occur in the slightest. In fact, by the end of the film the audience knows as much about the central character of the film, as they did in the beginning. From what it appears, the reason this occurred is because while the concept of the main character was interesting, the writers of the film did not construct a compelling story to help characterize the film’s central character. As a result, the audience spends nearly two hours with the main character, but does not really feel like they know him all that well. Because of the lack of connection with the central character, the situations that occur to him are not all that significant. In addition to not actually being given a reason to care about the characters, it makes it even more difficult for the film to facilitate any thematic discussion as the plot comes across as rather trite and lacking any real depth that has not been explored countless time in film in many different ways.
While in most cases a film lacking any real development is difficult to remain engaged in for a period of time, Moonlight is able to bypass this issue in large part thanks to its well-executed cinematography. Throughout the film there are long shots that move around characters to show off scenes from several different perspectives that help aid in highlighting pivotal moments throughout the film that would otherwise be glossed over if they were shot traditionally. Not to mention, a lot of shots throughout the film were either repeated or mirrored through similar compositions that helped showcase growth throughout the film. This exquisite understanding of visual storytelling really did assist in making the film bearable throughout, as the film is divided into three vignettes that play off one another in structure and as a result the visuals really help orchestrate the symbolism that exists in each of the vignettes.
In conclusion, Moonlight really ends the day as a large disappointment. For societal reasons the film had a lot of promise and could easily have not only helped continue the propulsion of films with black leading characters, but could have also opened the door for more mainstream black gay films. Unfortunately, while A24 took a chance and helped make sure the story of the film’s main character could be expressed on film, it would have been greatly beneficial for the company to also spend additional time making the story something that would be more memorable and encourage people to fall in love with the films characters. As a result, while the film is a great stepping-stone for independent cinema, A24, and everyone involved in the film from cast to crew, it is not one that will be discussed in mainstream film or remembered in the coming weeks. Therefore, Celluloid Cinema awards Moonlight 2 out of 5 Reels.
Thank you for visiting Celluloid Cinema, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.