Moonlight Blu-ray Review

Poignant coming of age story offers a subtle narrative approach. 4 Stars

A coming of age story simplistically told and yet filled with complex emotions which are often observed but not conveyed with words, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight offers a memorable exploration of a character in three distinct stages of his life.

Moonlight (2016)
Released: 18 Nov 2016
Rated: R
Runtime: 111 min
Director: Barry Jenkins
Genre: Drama
Cast: Mahershala Ali, Shariff Earp, Duan Sanderson, Alex R. Hibbert
Writer(s): Barry Jenkins (screenplay), Tarell Alvin McCraney (story by)
Plot: A timeless story of human self-discovery and connection, Moonlight chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
IMDB rating: 8.1
MetaScore: 99

Disc Information
Studio: Lionsgate
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Rating: R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 51 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraViolet
Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 02/28/2017
MSRP: $24.99

The Production: 4/5

A coming of age story simplistically told and yet filled with complex emotions which are often observed but not conveyed with words, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight offers a memorable exploration of a character in three distinct stages of his life. Poignant to the point of heartache and containing some superb performances, Moonlight certainly ranks as one of the year’s premiere works of art.

Chiron (Alex Hibbert) is a nine-year old boy who is the constant source of bullying by neighborhood jerks in a tough Miami project. His one friend Kevin (Jaden Piner) takes an interest in trying to toughen up his pal, but it’s actually drug dealing Juan (Mahershala Ali) who provides Chiron with a male authority figure even though Chiron’s crack-addicted mother Paula (Naomie Harris) doesn’t approve. As a teen, Chiron (Ashton Sanders) is constantly under threat of violence by school tough Terrel (Patrick Decile) but finds solace in his growing friendship with Kevin (Jharrel Jerome), a friendship that is cruelly tested and leads to trouble for the seventeen-year old. After serving jail time in Atlanta, Chiron now known as Black (Trevante Rhodes) goes into business for himself but finds himself taken aback with an unexpected phone call from Kevin (André Holland).

Chiron’s sixteen-year journey through a horrific adolescence was first noted in the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, and it’s been adapted for the screen by director Barry Jenkins. The three stages of Chiron’s life covered in the play and film don’t go into the everyday depths of the abusive life the character must face on the streets and at home but instead are provided in highlights which help mold Chiron into the character he will ultimately become in the movie’s third act (the first sight of Chiron in this third section is not only astonishing but also chillingly brings his character full circle with his mentor Juan). But certain scenes are unforgettable: Juan’s gentle instructions on swimming to the painfully shy kid, several moments with Juan’s loving girl friend Theresa (Janelle Monáe) who becomes his surrogate mother and her home a safe haven from his real mother’s abuse and neglect, Chiron’s moonlit initiation with sex, and the triumphant retaliation against Terrel which even though it lands him in prison seems warranted and welcome. Director Jenkins takes several opportunities to use a circular camera, most disturbingly when Terrel is surveying his goon squad to choose someone to do his beatdown bidding, and yet Jenkins is confident enough to let faces do the emoting without feeling the necessity for words, and the film’s silences are often as affecting and profound as almost anything else in the movie. Chiron and Kevin’s climactic encounter in Kevin’s diner is fraught with sexual tension and re-discovery, all handled astutely by director Jenkins.

The six actors who play Chiron and Kevin at different ages are all quite wonderful: Alex Hibbert (who gives mostly a silent performance of impressive depth), Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes as Chiron; Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, and André Holland as Kevin with Rhodes and Holland especially on point as the adult versions of the characters. Mahershala Ali is a strong, oddly noble presence as drug dealer Juan (and how often does one say that about drug dealers depicted in movies?), and Janelle Monáe complements him beautifully as the gentle, understanding Theresa. Naomie Harris has a bravura turn as the crack addict Paula screeching out epithets at her son and eventually owning up to her many mistakes as a mother. Patrick Decile gets down and dirty as the bullying Terrel.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The movie was filmed digitally and is framed here at 2.39:1 with 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Because of the nature of cinematographer James Laxton’s camerawork which goes in and out of focus during quite a few scenes, it’s sometimes hard to get a handle on the transfer’s sharpness. Some of the segments are also slightly tinted for emotional resonance though usually color is true and skin tones real. Contrast has been consistently rendered, and black levels are very good. The movie has been divided into 16 chapters.

Audio: 4.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix plays with sound in some interesting ways, especially in using Nicholas Britell’s eclectic score (a mix of classical scoring and hip/hop rhythms) either reduced to the center channel or expanded into the full soundstage as necessary. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel. Ambient effects are also often subdued and occasionally not noticeably channeled for the full surround effect.

Special Features: 3.5/5

Audio Commentary: writer-director Barry Jenkins speaks with authority and energy about the making of his second feature film with no extended pauses.

Ensemble of Emotion: The Making of Moonlight (21:37, HD): writer-director Barry Jenkins, producers Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and actors Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Mahershala Ali, and Naomie Harris discuss the film’s story, themes, and characters and what being a part of the picture meant to them.

Poetry Through Collaboration: The Music of Moonlight (10:06, HD): composer Nicholas Britell and director Barry Jenkins discuss their collaboration to attain the musical motifs they wanted to enhance the story.

Cruel Beauty: Filming in Miami (5:39, HD): writers Tarell Alvin McCraney and Barry Jenkins discuss their upbringing in Miami as influencing the tone and texture of the film being shot there. Also commenting on the Miami locations are producers Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, and Jeremy Kleiner.

Promo Trailers (HD): 20th Century Woman, Free Fire, American Honey, Swiss Army Man, The Lobster.

Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.

Overall: 4/5

A lovely, moving coming-of-age story set amid the rough neighborhoods of Miami, Moonlight doesn’t milk its emotions for their ultimate depths but rather pulls back and lets the viewer read his own thoughts and feelings into the narrative, an unusual and different approach to cinematic storytelling. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and sound quality for one of the year’s best films.

Published by

Matt Hough

administrator

39 Comments

  1. Matt Hough

    It won big at the Independent Spirit Awards tonight.

    I have a feeling that "Moonlight" and "Manchester" will kinda cancel each other out at the Oscars. Both are similar in a lot of ways – low-key, downbeat character dramas with ambiguous endings – so I think they semi-negate each other.

    Hope I'm wrong – would love to see "Moonlight" or "Manchester" win BP instead of "LLL"!

  2. I imagine you're all going to think I'm crazy for saying this, but of the nine nominated films for Best Picture this year, I felt that La La Land and Moonlight were in many ways the most similar. The stories couldn't be more different, but walking out of both movies, I felt that the things I liked and disliked in both films were the same, and that my criticism and praise for both was nearly identical.

  3. bujaki

    Both Moonlight and Manchester are far worthier films than La3 and, I believe, will better stand the test of time.

    I honestly don't get the love for "LLL". I think it's a situation where people are so excited to see a 1950s-style musical that they're praising it way more than it deserves – just like with "The Artist" 5 years ago…

  4. Colin Jacobson

    I honestly don't get the love for "LLL". I think it's a situation where people are so excited to see a 1950s-style musical that they're praising it way more than it deserves – just like with "The Artist" 5 years ago…

    I don't know that I agree exactly (I don't think either was a bad picture, but neither would end up on my best lists), but I definitely saw a similarity between not just the movies, but the public and critical response to them.

  5. Josh Steinberg

    I don't know that I agree exactly (I don't think either was a bad picture, but neither would end up on my best lists), but I definitely saw a similarity between not just the movies, but the public and critical response to them.

    I don't think either "LLL" or "Artist" are bad films – I just think their acclaim is far out of proportion with their actual quality, and I think a lot of the acclaim comes from factors related to "novelty".

    I admit I'm not a big fan of musicals, but I can enjoy them. "LLL" just left me cold – it tried so hard to be a "classic musical" but didn't match up with the greats it tried to emulate.

    It just made me want to watch one of those classics instead. It was like listening to a recording of a Beatles tribute band – why do that when I can listen to the real thing?

  6. Colin Jacobson

    I honestly don't get the love for "LLL". I think it's a situation where people are so excited to see a 1950s-style musical that they're praising it way more than it deserves – just like with "The Artist" 5 years ago…

    I always try to stay away from using that type of line about films that didn't impress me as much as it did with others. It's like saying, what is wrong with those people, can't they see it's not that good. Anyhow, I'm just talking about my perspective with such comments.

  7. Robert Crawford

    I try to avoid, but not always successful, from using that type of line about films that didn't impress me as much as it did with others. It's like saying, what is wrong with those people, can't they see it's not that good. Anyhow, I'm just talking about my perspective with such comments.

    I'm not saying there's anything "wrong" with people in that circumstance. It's an observation/belief but it doesn't connote failure in the people who like the movie.

    Expectations are a huge influence in our enjoyment/appreciation of movies. If you love classic musicals, you're naturally going to be predisposed to love a modern-day version of one – even if "objectively" the product isn't that great.

    I'm not immune from that so I don't say it to condemn others…

  8. The Oscars are so subjective, in hindsight certain Best Picture winners really puzzle me. "Oliver", "The Greatest Show on Earth", "Dances With Wolves", "Chicago", Crash", "Slumdog Millionaire", "The Artist" …. All good films but when you look at the competition that year all are very questionable picks. I personally would love a tie between LLL and Moonlight this year

  9. Thanks for the excellent review, Matt.

    I look forward to the commentary track.

    The only place we disagree is that I would give this film that rare 5 out of 5 stars for the film.

  10. Jimbo64

    The Oscars are so subjective, in hindsight certain Best Picture winners really puzzle me. "Oliver", "The Greatest Show on Earth", "Dances With Wolves", "Chicago", Crash", "Slumdog Millionaire", "The Artist" …. All good films but when you look at the competition that year all are very questionable picks. I personally would love a tie between LLL and Moonlight this year

    Of all these films I somewhat agree with some but absolutely disagree with the notion that Dances With Wolves is somehow undeserving. It was the best film that year. Yes better than Goodfellas. It deserved every Oscar it got imo.

  11. Tino

    Of all these films I somewhat agree with some but absolutely disagree with the notion that Dances With Wolves is somehow undeserving. It was the best film that year. Yes better than Goodfellas. It deserved every Oscar it got imo.

    It's def a great film but I think most "Top 100" and critic's lists have always included Goodfellas but I haven't seen that many include Dances With Wolves. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion though.

  12. Mark Walker

    The surest sign Moonlight won't win, is that it is the best film this year.

    I have never been so happy to be wrong. I haven't agreed with the MPAA's choices for Best Picture in years, but I actually teared up tonight when it happened.

  13. Happy for you Bujaki.

    Will definite pick up Moonlight on Tuesday.

    My wife and I hosted an Oscar party tonight and my screenwriter friend all night said I was crazy for not loving Moonlight and I must watch it again. Happy for the Moonlight team. Seriously.

  14. Moonlight has only just opened in cinemas in Norway – I saw it for the first time last week. The final segment moved me to tears. An unexpected and bold choice from the Academy for best picture.

  15. Jimbo64

    The Oscars are so subjective, in hindsight certain Best Picture winners really puzzle me. "Oliver", "The Greatest Show on Earth", "Dances With Wolves", "Chicago", Crash", "Slumdog Millionaire", "The Artist" …. All good films but when you look at the competition that year all are very questionable picks. I personally would love a tie between LLL and Moonlight this year

    I guess in a way, they kind of did last night… LOL

  16. Jimbo64

    The Oscars are so subjective, in hindsight certain Best Picture winners really puzzle me. "Oliver", "The Greatest Show on Earth", "Dances With Wolves", "Chicago", Crash", "Slumdog Millionaire", "The Artist" …. All good films but when you look at the competition that year all are very questionable picks. I personally would love a tie between LLL and Moonlight this year

    I don't know, but I think Dances with Wolves is a great film! Also, Chicago is a very good film too. I do agree that The Greatest Show on Earth shouldn't have won over The Quiet Man or High Noon. The others are questionable to some degree.

  17. titch

    Moonlight has only just opened in cinemas in Norway – I saw it for the first time last week. The final segment moved me to tears. An unexpected and bold choice from the Academy for best picture.

    I haven't yet seen MOONLIGHT, and I'm sure it is a most worthy winner, but I have never been able to wrap my head around the separation of Best Picture from Best Director. The Academy has divided these a number of times over the years. AFAIC, there should not even be a Best Director Oscar. The Best Picture winner should honor both the producer(s) and director. As has been commented upon many times, how can a film be voted best picture without acknowledging the person who helmed the production? If MOONLIGHT is the winner of Best Picture, then Barry Jenkins should have taken home an Oscar. If LA-LA LAND won Best Director, then it should have taken the Best Picture Oscar. Stupid, to my mind, to separate the two.

  18. Debbie Downer here…again.

    As soon as it became clear on Oscar night that Moonlight won Best Picture, I navigated to Amazon and placed an order for the Blu (partly the completist in me kicking in to have as many BP winners as possible in my collection…but also to allow me the opportunity to see what the film was all about).

    So my wife and I watched it last night

    I am at a total loss to understand why this film is receiving the accolades that are being tossed its way. In fact, I liked Manchester by the Sea more than this film and I didn't think much of it at all.

    I'm having a difficult time understanding what it was about these characters that I was supposed to like. And even more so than in Manchester, I am at a loss to explain how these characters grew in any meaningful way. Even though we saw many of the characters at three different stages of their lives, I am hard-pressed to explain any real growth that moved those characters forward.

    I'd like to think I understood the film and the context in which its characters existed. But outside of the obvious events which were portrayed, I fail to see what was so interesting/incredible about this story-telling.

    My favorite scene was the one in which the young Chiron sat at Juan/Teresa's dining room table asking those difficult questions and forcing Juan to realize that he had negatively impacted his life while at the same time trying to bolster him up.

    Sure, the characters faced hardships and there were many who I found interesting…just not THAT interesting. And what ever happened to Juan, anyway?!? 😀

  19. Robert Crawford

    As to the Best Picture, I think Hell or High Water was the best picture I saw in 2016.

    I just might agree with that, Robert. :thumbsup:

    I saw all the BP nominees except for Hidden Figures this year.

    Hell and High Water, La La Land and Arrival were easily my top three.

  20. Mike Frezon

    Sure, the characters faced hardships and there were many who I found interesting…just not THAT interesting. And what ever happened to Juan, anyway?!? 😀

    Uh…

    Spoiler

    I have a bunch of co-workers who are absolutely stunned that I said it was the best film of the year because they hated it so much. They thought I was joking. They probably still think I'm punking them.

    It's the performances, the emotional connection, and the tone that sucked me in. I just felt connected to it from the jump. On a technical level, Chazelle deserves his Oscar, but Jenkins was the one who created the feeling of a fully realized world. I don't know how true Chiron is as a character, but it felt true. Jenkins created that, and it was Oscar worthy.

    I've seen a lot of movies that I know are good, but I never want to see them again. Moonlight definitely deserves repeat viewing. It's beautiful.

  21. Yeah. That's what I said to my wife when we were discussing it afterward–that Juan was in a rather high-risk profession.

    ================

    And that is the glory of subjectivity…as I saw nothing beautiful in Moonlight. Yes, there were kindnesses portrayed to Chiron over the years…by Juan, by Teresa, by Kevin. But, to what end?

    I am left to think that this was a rather typical tale of a kid who is picked-upon by his peers for being different and that nothing that happens to him along the way really lifts him up from that in any way. Where some see beauty, I see misery.

  22. Just as a follow up here, Barry Jenkins and the playwright both say this is their very personal story. It was "deeply personal" to both of them, both from the neighborhood in the film, both with crack-addicted mothers.

    Hanson

    Uh…

    Spoiler

    I have a bunch of co-workers who are absolutely stunned that I said it was the best film of the year because they hated it so much. They thought I was joking. They probably still think I'm punking them.

    It's the performances, the emotional connection, and the tone that sucked me in. I just felt connected to it from the jump. On a technical level, Chazelle deserves his Oscar, but Jenkins was the one who created the feeling of a fully realized world. I don't know how true Chiron is as a character, but it felt true. Jenkins created that, and it was Oscar worthy.

    I've seen a lot of movies that I know are good, but I never want to see them again. Moonlight definitely deserves repeat viewing. It's beautiful.

  23. You're looking for an end when that is not what this film is about.

    It is showing us the life of someone who folded in on himself because he was a minority within a minority and learned the wrong lessons from Juan about being yourself and masculinity, particularly when you are black, gay, and poor.

    Juan was the one person he could look up to on how to be a man, who is based on the real person, a drug dealer, that also happens to be supportive person the young black gay child of the film grew up to become, the playwright, Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.

    By the time we get to Black, the third version of Chiron , he has armored himself with muscle and no one has touched him in years emotionally or physically.

    Kevin's call gives Black a chance to connect again with someone in a real way and be vulnerable. By the end, these two men have a shot at being authentic again.

    I frequently disagree with the AMPAS choice for Best Picture. This year I feel they got it right, but I support you disagreeing. Having said that, these are some of the reasons why I and many thought think this film is amazing and incredible and Barry Jenkins just became a must-watch director for me.

    Variety on this film as AMPAS Best Picture

    In the interests of sharing more information,

    and

    On Masculinity and Moonlight

    Mike Frezon

    Yeah. That's what I said to my wife when we were discussing it afterward–that Juan was in a rather high-risk profession.

    ================

    And that is the glory of subjectivity…as I saw nothing beautiful in Moonlight. Yes, there were kindnesses portrayed to Chiron over the years…by Juan, by Teresa, by Kevin. But, to what end?

    I am left to think that this was a rather typical tale of a kid who is picked-upon by his peers for being different and that nothing that happens to him along the way really lifts him up from that in any way. Where some see beauty, I see misery.

  24. In the third act, Black reconnects with his mother in a scene that is fraught with tension and eventual forgiveness and reconciliation. I found it extremely moving. Both characters have reached a point in their lives where they can love one another in spite of their emotional scars. That is growth; that is a connection; that is a positive ending to their chapter. Then Black can move on to his meeting with Kevin, which will show further growth, another connection, and another positive ending to Black's story.

  25. Hanson

    Uh…

    Spoiler

    I have a bunch of co-workers who are absolutely stunned that I said it was the best film of the year because they hated it so much. They thought I was joking. They probably still think I'm punking them.

    When I saw 2004’s Sideways, it occurred as part of a second date. This took place a couple of weeks before the 2005 Oscar ceremony, and I told my date I wanted to check it out since it received a nomination for Best Picture. In fact, I repeated this fact about five times before we got to the theater.

    After the flick ended, I asked her what she thought of the film. She made a couple of vague comments about how it was occasionally funny but not much more than that; clearly it didn’t impress her. Since I really enjoyed Sideways, I felt a little irked by her dismissal of it, so I noted that plenty of folks must have liked it since it received the Best Picture nod.

    At that point, she began to laugh hysterically. She reacted to this Oscar information as though she’d never heard it before – never mind that I’d stated it so many times earlier in the night. She couldn’t get over the concept that a film she interpreted as meaningless fluff received such high praise. She even stated that she liked Meet the Fockers – one of the biggest wastes of talent ever committed to film – more than Sideways.

    There was no third date.

  26. Robert Crawford

    Smart woman!:laugh:

    I'M the one who chose not to have a third date, smart guy! 😆

    Truthfully, I wouldn't have wanted a 3rd date even without the "Sideways" disagreement, but that was the proverbial icing on the cake!

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