The average movie sets up its own reality and then sticks to the rules of that reality. The exceptions are films where we learn that reality isn't what it seems, such as any movie where it was all a dream. Most dramas are set in the real world, and thus, the characters acts as if they are in the real world, even if they do odd things. But, when a character does something incredibly unrealistic (or something which makes little sense), it pulls me out of the story. Such a scene occurs very early in the foreign film Moonlight and for me, it was all downhill from there.
As Moonlight opens, we witness two disturbing events. First, an adolescent Boy (Hunter Bussemaker) (we never learn his name), who is being used as a drug "mule" is shot and left for dead in the woods. Then, Claire (Laurien Van den Broeck), an adolescent girl who lives in a large house, have her first menstruation. The next day, Claire enters the shed by her house and finds the boy, bleeding and unconscious. Instead of alerting her parents, Claire decides to keep the boy a secret, and nurse him back to health herself. When Claire learns that her father has sold their house and that they will be moving to the city, she decides to runaway with the boy. Despite the fact that he is still injured, and can't speak English, the boy accompanies Claire on an adventure through the city. However, they soon learn that one can't outrun their past.
To say that Moonlight is an odd film would be an understatement, as it latches onto the European art-film aesthetic and never lets go. The movie is incomprehensible at times and it's challenging to watch. As Claire and Boy are the main characters, and Boy doesn't speak English, there is very little dialogue in the film. For me, watching Moonlight was like watching someone else's dream. The movie is lyrical and haunting, and yet events seemingly come and go at random at times.
And yet, I couldn't get past the fact that Claire didn't tell her parents about the boy in the shed. At one point in the movie, Claire reveals that she's adopted because she was abandoned. Perhaps she feels a bond to Boy because he was abandoned as well. Or maybe it was because they were both bleeding. Whatever the case, she decides to keep him and secret and this rang as very false with me. Of course, I would soon learn that my consternation at this happening was a moot point, as the second half of the film is filled with decision's on Claire part which are quite reckless and unrealistic.
Again, the movie plays like an adolescent girl's fever dream, where she meets a young man, nurses him back to (partial) health and then has an adventure. The problem here is that sense that we aren't sharing in Claire's dream. I never had any clue what Claire's motivations were. This makes some parts of the film surprising, but it also pushed me away. These moments are intertwined with scenes in which Claire and Boy simply look at one another, or walk together, saying nothing. The result is a film which is artistically sound, but isn't entertaining at all.
Moonlight comes through the clouds onto DVD courtesy of Indican Pictures. It should be noted that for the purposes of this review, DVDTalk.com was supplied with a DVR copy of the DVD, and all comments are based solely on that copy. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is fairly sharp and clear, as there is very little grain on the picture and no significant defects from the source material. However, upon closer inspection, one notes artifacting issues and a certain waxy nature to the character's flesh. Despite the dark material in the film, it has been shot in a very natural style and the colors come across quite well in this transfer.
The DVD has a Dolby 2.0 stereo audio track. This track provides fairly clear dialogue and subtitles, although the dialogue is somewhat muffled at times. In simple terms, the audio here is flat, as there is little in the way of stereo effects and even the gunshots aren't much louder than anything else in the film.
The only extras on the Moonlight DVD are a TRAILER for the film and a STILL GALLERY.
There's nothing at all wrong with artsy films which want to eschew plot to focus on being a character study. But, at some point, we have to get to know those characters. Moonlight gives us little to work with and suffers for that. The movie has a sort of elegance to it, but only the most patient will find it appealing.