‘Moonlight’ reviews: ‘Epic,’ ‘astonishing’ coming-of-age drama is most acclaimed film of 2016

When it comes to critical acclaim, it’ll be hard to beat “Moonlight.” The indie drama, which made the rounds at the Telluride, Toronto and New York Film Festivals and was released in theaters on October 21, has scored a remarkable 99 on MetaCritic, which as of this writing makes it that website’s highest-rated film of the year. It’s the highest-rated film of the last two years actually; no film has scored this high since “Boyhood” got a perfect score of 100 in 2014. On top of that, “Moonlight” is 98% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Sign up to get Gold Derby’s free newsletter with experts’ latest predictions and breaking news

That’s going to make the film a force to be reckoned with at this fall’s critics awards, which often set the stage for the Oscars. As it stands the expert film journalists we’ve polled rank “Moonlight” third for Best Picture with 9/1 odds, right behind frontrunner “La La Land” (9/2 odds) and “Manchester by the Sea” (6/1 odds).

Normally a film like “Moonlight” would be a tough sell for awards voters: it’s an understated story about underprivileged black characters by a relatively unknown director (Barry Jenkins) and without A-list stars. But it’s distributed by A24, the company that handled another tough-sell contender last year, “Room,” and guided it to Oscar noms for Best Picture and Best Director (Lenny Abrahamson) and a Best Actress win for Brie Larson.

Dish ‘Moonlight’ with Hollywood insiders in our notorious forums

Do you think the universal acclaim for “Moonlight” will bolster its Oscar chances? Check out some of the reviews below, and discuss the film with Hollywood insiders in our movie forum.

Dana Stevens (Slate): “Moonlight is one of those movies that showers its audience with blessings: raw yet accomplished performances from a uniformly fine cast, casually lyrical camerawork, and a frankly romantic soundtrack that runs the gamut from ’70s Jamaican pop to a Mexican folk song crooned by the Brazilian Caetano Veloso. But the film’s greatest gift may be that flood of cleansing tears—which, by the time this spare but affecting film was over, I was also shedding in copious volume.”

Stephanie Zacharek (Time): “Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight—which Jenkins adapted from a story by playwright Tarell McCraney—is a coming-of-age movie, and a love story, that leaves you feeling both stripped bare and restored, slightly better prepared to step out and face the world of people around you, with all the confounding challenges they present. There’s not much more you can ask from a movie.”

Find out how ‘Moonlight’ will do at the Oscars this year

Benjamin Lee (The Guardian): “In a festival season that’s too often populated by quite literally vanilla awards fare, writer/director Barry Jenkins’ astonishing new film is both proudly black and refreshingly queer. It’s a thrilling, deeply necessary work that opens up a much-needed and rarely approached on-screen conversation about the nature of gay masculinity.”

Eric Kohn (Indiewire): “Rich with evocative images and tender exchanges, writer-director Barry Jenkins’ treatment of Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s play ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue’ is a beautiful drama that manages to be both epic and understated.”

Predict the Oscar nominations now; change them till January 24

Be sure to make your Oscar predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see how this film is faring in our racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

More News from GoldDerby