Noise and Silence
Dir. Barry Jenkins, USA, 2016, 110 minutes
at the New York Film Festival, also at TIFF
The question these days in the award-addled film scene is whether Moonlight by Barry Jenkins is the best film of the year. You don’t have to think that it’s the year’s best film to hope that this film will be seen.
Moonlight is a film of noise and silence – the noise of the world roaring around a young black boy in Miami, and the silence of the quiet boy’s loneliness as he races to escape the bullies among his peers – almost all of them – and watches the world with mistrust, even in the rare cases when people treat him with kindness.
There’s a special tenderness to Moonlight’s portrayal of an improbably kind couple by Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monae. Yet bear in mind that when a boy is left to the mercies of a local drug dealer, with a heart in this case that’s as gold as his chains, it’s a cruel world indeed.
But it’s a familiar and believable one, in the three chapters of this film that explores the detachment and the occasional connection of its character who starts out with a mother who provides him with anger and absence. Lie the mother who was all he had, the friend who was the only link among his peers also fails him. The logical response to the world is silence and withdrawal – and, as we see, violence to meet violence.
In his earlier Medicine for Melancholy, Jenkins told a story with grace and gravity, with images propelling the narrative. It’s been years, but Moonlight with its eloquence is well worth the wait.
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