Structure: 1/5 | Entertainment: 4/5
Haunting soundtrack. Engaging cinematography. Riveting and honest performances.
But no story.
Sure, Chiron (Alex Hubert, Ashton Sanders, & Trevante Rhodes) grows to accept who he is…but did the film make a convincing argument as to how best to approach that problem?
A Grand Argument Story combines elements of Character, Plot, Theme, and Genre into four distinct Throughlines: The Overall Story Throughline, the Main Character Throughline, the Influence Character Throughline, and the Relationship Story Throughline.
Moonlight is all Main Character Throughline and little to no Overall Story Throughline. The end result is a great subjective experience, or what is commonly referred to as a slice-of-life story. Without the objectivity one receives from the Overall Story Throughline, the story fails to make its case for why things turned out the way they did. In the same way that our lack of objectivity in our own lives fails to grant us meaning, our inability to see what happens outside of Chiron’s point-of-view locks us into his perspective.
We feel for him. But we don’t learn from him.
Contrast this with The Matrix where you clearly see how a little bit of faith can save the day. Or Whiplash where a little determination can overcome any doubt over how you have yet to prove yourself.
Moonlight is a Tale, not a story. While captivating and engaging, the film failed to make a convincing argument as to whether Chiron’s choices were a good thing or a bad thing, and whether or not they led to success or failure. As a consequence, we can only take the events as they are and not see them as part of a greater, more meaningful experience.