The tough childhood of a poor Miami kid is the subject of Barry Jenkins's powerful and moving indie portrait of African-American life
The first miracle of Barry Jenkins’s exquisite coming-of-age drama ‘Moonlight’ – and this heartbreaker of a film is filled with miracles – happens around a kitchen table. We’ve already seen quiet, sullen Chiron (Alex Hibbert), a 10-year-old with frightened eyes, being chased by bullies. The two adults sitting around the table aren’t his parents (one of them is actually the drug dealer selling crack to Chiron’s addict mum), but somehow they know the exact words to say when the boy softly asks them, ‘Am I a faggot?’
Jenkins, an indie director whose first feature, ‘Medicine for Melancholy’ (2008), delved into a whole universe of African-American issues rarely explored onscreen, now goes even further, and with an uncommonly poetic voice. The barely-getting-by Miami of ‘Moonlight’ – a place of needle-strewn drug dens and cheapo diners – bears little resemblance to the one we usually see in the movies. But the film is more radical for articulating an internal sexual turbulence that doesn’t fit the stereotype. It’s not the one laid down by ‘Brokeback Mountain’ or other key gay stories but something new, seething with anxiety, similar to the vibe you feel in the tense, ticking beats of Frank Ocean.
Chiron grows into a pinch-faced, haunted teenager (Ashton Sanders), the second portrayal of the character, who is played by three actors in the film. (Trevante Rhodes’s muscle-bound adult Chiron, hiding his pain behind a scary facade, is yet to come.) The script is based on Tarell McCraney’s autobiographical play ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue’, but Jenkins throws off the constraints of the stage: at one point, the camera swirls with a bully who circles like a shark. It’s a frightening spiral that suggests cycles with no end.
As for the final passage – a decade later, with Chiron in the company of an old friend (André Holland), a romantic song playing on the jukebox – there’s no sequence this year that matches it. This film is, without a doubt, the reason we go to the movies.
Cast and crew
Average User Rating
4.3 / 5
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- 4 star:12
- 3 star:1
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This film shines a light on an area of life that most of us just don't see. But the underlying theme is universal: attachment, love and "who do you trust?" It is well acted and on the whole well directed. The child, Chiron, is particularly powerfully portrayed. Naomie Harris is an amazing actress and deserves recognition.
I like films that give you space to work things out for yourself but there is a moment in this film where a brief explanation would have helped: the adolescent Chiron to the adult Chiron. Where has he been and what has happened to him? It was the only hiccup in an otherwise fine film.
Lyrical and poetic - it builds slowly and gently until by the end I was almost in tears. The choice of music is perfect at every moment. By the way - this movie is not about sexuality or being gay in any way - it's about falling in love. An absolute must see.
Moonlight works well because it confronts, confounds and confuses (in a good way!) your preconceptions of life on the crack-addled mean streets. There is positivity in this tale of a young boy growing up to become a man after being given a friendly hand by a nice drug dealer, with a clutch of raw and impressive performances. My review for more: http://bit.ly/filmmoonlight
A very contemporary, visually stunning film. The pretentious screenplay is executed faultlessly and the poetic narrative emotionally bonds the viewer with the narrative. The mixture of genres in the plot echoes with real life and makes the film very original. Definitely deserving of the best picture award at this year's Oscars.