Directed by Barry Jenkins
Cinematography by James Laxton
The Film Experience’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot series returns for another season! I had a lot of fun participating a few times last year, and I’m so glad this new season kicks off with Moonlight, 2016’s most beautiful movie in both story and imagery. First I have to say how wonderful it was revisiting this film again for this post, especially after its glorious Best Picture Oscar win (mainly speaking of the award itself, not how it was presented…). Every shot in this film is simply gorgeous, which made it even harder to narrow down to just a small handful of shots, but I managed it somehow…
Moonlight features some great shots of characters looking at each other, and in some of those, they’re seemingly looking directly into the camera, putting the audience in the chosen character’s perspective. The above shots of Kevin (André Holland) and Chiron “Black” (Trevante Rhodes) are my favorite of these gazing shots. A good number of years has passed since Chiron and Kevin last saw one another, and the moment they lock eyes for the first time and recognize who the other is just takes my breath away. Their shared gaze here is only the beginning of a moving reunion between the two men.
The scene in which Juan (Mahershala Ali) teaches Chiron “Little” (Alex R. Hibbert) how to swim is possibly the film’s most memorable, and it was a very strong contender for best shot. Here Chiron puts his full trust into Juan, allowing himself to be vulnerable to the unfamiliar waters once his surrogate father figure lets him go. Though he may not realize it in this moment in time, it’s through this swimming lesson that Juan is telling Chiron that it comes down to himself to get through the currents, whether they be at the beach or elsewhere. This beach trip would go on to leave quite an impression on the young Chiron, as it’d prove to be the one place he could find solace through tough times.
While this scene on the beach between Chiron (Ashton Sanders) and Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) is Moonlight‘s most intimate, the camera doesn’t invade on the moment between the two, nor does it exploit what they’re doing. Instead, we see shots like Chiron’s hand, clenching from the intensity of the act, then letting go and spreading his fingers freely in the sand before clenching them together again. This is obviously a critical point in Chiron’s growing understanding of his sexuality, as he allows himself, for a brief moment, to let his true identity show through to another person.
Be sure to check out what others have chosen as their best shot from Moonlight here!