Jeremy Irons is brilliant in this moving tale of Polish workers trapped in London during Communism’s last days

Moonlighting showcases a young Jeremy Irons in a masterful performance about a foreign Polish worker trapped in London, while his homeland goes through martial law. The 1982 British film had a Polish director, Jerzy Skolimowski. This is a deeply personal story which captures the zeitgeist of that period. It deals in a specific point in Polish history when Solidarity became the first independent trade union in a Soviet-bloc country. Martial law was instituted throughout the country as a last-ditch effort by a crumbling communist government.

Moonlighting has a powerful story to tell through the desperate situation of Jeremy Irons’ character. Nowak (Irons) and three other Polish construction workers he manages have come to London to restore an apartment for Nowak’s boss back in Poland. Nowak is the only one of the four workers that can speak English. That puts him in charge of these men as they spend the month in London on a shoestring budget.

They are strangers in a strange land, coming from the communist country of Poland to the materialistic London. While the men are deep in the midst of construction, political turmoil sweeps Poland. Martial law is declared by the government and all phone calls to Poland have been cut off. That leaves Nowak and his fellow workers stuck in London without any support. Nowak learns what has happened and keeps this information from his three other workers, pushing them harder and harder to finish the restoration. The workers remain oblivious to what is happening as they don’t speak or read English.

It’s a difficult situation that becomes almost impossible for Nowak to manage by himself. He’s cut off from anyone he knows in his homeland and is on his own managing the project. He feverishly dreams of seeing his beloved Anna again in Poland, isolated from his fellow workers by the knowledge he must keep from telling them. Things go from bad to worse when problems start eating into the project’s limited budget. That forces Nowak to compromise his moral integrity at every turn to get the project done on time.

The desperate situation and loneliness felt by Nowak makes him a sympathetic character…

Moonlighting works on several different levels, from political allegory to a moving tale of humanity. The desperate situation and loneliness felt by Nowak makes him a sympathetic character, even when he repeatedly makes the wrong moral choices. Jeremy Irons was quickly making a name for himself in the acting world before Moonlighting and this performance confirmed he was a heavyweight actor that would go on to greater fame. He has to carry the film, as we aren’t given much insight into the other Polish workers. Their lack of English keeps them firmly in the background. That level of isolation between them and the audience was likely intentional. Moonlighting is the story of Nowak and the rich political allegory afforded by his situation. Nowak has to exploit his fellow workers by stiffing them on wages and stealing from stores when necessary.

Written and directed by Jerzy Skolimowski, the British film still rings with truth decades after the fall of Communism. Built on a layer of fairly sophisticated political bedrock, Moonlighting is ultimately a human tale capturing a moment in time that seems like a different world. Carefully made and handled with a deft touch by Jeremy Irons, Nowak becomes an impossible character to forget in his hopeless struggle.

Movie ★★★★★

Nothing good could come of this moment @ 1:47

Moonlighting receives a fairly strong film transfer in a faithful film-like presentation. Released by niche distributor B2MP, the 1982 British film hits Blu-ray for the first time with strong clarity and decent definition. The 97-minute main feature is encoded in AVC, averaging 24 Mbps on a BD-25. Independent releases often struggle obtaining decent film elements. B2MP produces a new, high-grade film scan from elements in nearly perfect condition. The video is presented at 1080P resolution in the movie’s intended 1.78:1 aspect ratio.

The recent film transfer exhibits strong, unfiltered fine detail. A hint of sharpening is the only sign of any overt processing. The transparent AVC video encode handles the moderate grain structure without breaking into artifacts. Moonlighting’s overall palette is somewhat drab but its color saturation remains strong with fine color reproduction. The neutral contrast is backed by solid black levels most of the time. Flesh-tones aren’t overly warm.

Moonlighting’s detailed video has pleasing definition, perfectly encapsulating cinematographer Tony Pierce Roberts’ excellent cinematography. For a movie made on the cheap, the entire production is a high-quality effort marked by its professionalism. It doesn’t strive to be the sharpest film around but fares quite well in comparison to other European productions from the era on Blu-ray. You can’t ask for a much better job on Moonlighting. This Blu-ray presentation shows a dramatic improvement over DVD-quality video in actual resolution and depth.

Video ★★★★☆

The original mono audio comes in decent, if unspectacular, 2.0 PCM. Composer Stanley Myers’s score takes a backseat at times to a young composer by the name of Hans Zimmer. Before Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and other films, Zimmer provided a subtle electronic underscore for Moonlighting that adds a sense of unease to the mood. The fidelity and recording quality are vaguely disappointing, Zimmer’s electronic underscore is barely heard in a few key scenes. Dialogue remains intelligible throughout the movie but the sound design belies this film’s limited budget. The isolated music score is also included in 2.0 PCM, a nice treat for music lovers looking for a little bonus.

Optional English subtitles display in a white font. A curious choice is made to forgo translating the Polish speaking between Nowak and his workers. I will assume that was intentionally chosen by the director but it makes for a rough start to the film’s first fifteen minutes.

Audio ★★★☆☆

B2MP provides a pretty nice package of goodies for Moonlighting. This is a Blu-ray and DVD combo set. An incredibly in-depth essay on the historical background for the film’s events by Ewa Mazierska is fantastic. It covers the film from a political and social angle, explaining what Poland was going through during this time. The included booklet also has a biography of director Jerzy Skolimowski.

Theatrical Trailer (03:09 in HD)

Isolated Music Score by Stanley Myers (2.0 PCM)

Audio With Comments From Jeremy Irons – Calling it comments from Irons instead of a full commentary is completely accurate. The famous actor delivers a terse, deliberately worded package of brief comments during the entire film. It is heavily punctuated with silence. Much of it is inconsequential commentary. We get fragments of anecdotes and memories from the shoot. It’s great we get to hear an actor of this caliber talk about his work but this bonus looks better on paper than it is in actuality. Some will find it a frustrating listening experience.

Extras ★★★☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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