★★★★★ | Moonlight
A tender, heartwarming story of a young black gay man growing up in 1980’s Miami is the story of the critically acclaimed film Moonlight.
I had to see this film a second time to fully relive and understand and absorb the nuances and emotional impact it delivers. Moonlight is about Chiron, and the three chapters of his life. Played as a wide-eyed young boy by Alex Hibbert, as a teenager by Ashton Sanders, and then as an adult by Trevante Rhodes – we get to see him grow up while having to endure lots pain and heartbreak is his life.
Chiron is not like the rest of the other boys in school. He is constantly picked on (he’s smaller than the rest), his father is not in the picture, and his mother Paula (an excellent Naomie Harris) is a drug addict who is slowly spiralling into desperate drug addiction.
The Miami housing project where Paula and Chiron live is controlled by drug dealer Juan (Oscar-nominated Mahershala Ali), who lives there with his girlfriend Teresa (a very good Janelle Monåe). Juan just happens to be Paula’s drug dealer. But Juan also becomes a father figure to Chiron, and Chiron starts spending lots of time at his apartment. He’s looked after there, is fed and cared for by Tereaa, he gets meals there that he never would get at home. But as Chiron grows up, he becomes more aware of his sexuality, and as a teenager has a thing with fellow friend Kevin (Jharrel Jerome), whom he’s known since they were young boys, and it’s this act that changes Chiron’s life forever.
We then see Chiron as a 24-year old ex-convict, muscled up, dealing drugs and still coming to grips with his sexuality. All of a sudden he gets a call from Kevin (now played by a very charismatic André Holland). Chiron still has feelings for Kevin, so he gets up the courage to meet up with him. It’s in these moments where we hold our breath, not really knowing what’s going to happen. All we want is for Chiron to be happy, to be in a relationship, to lead a happy life with someone he cares about and loves – and that’s all he really wants too.
Moonlight is an exquisite depiction of self-discovery, of a disenfranchised young black man meandering through life who is on a personal journey of self-discovery. Moonlight is based on the play Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney. It’s a beautifully shot movie (by James Laxton) and its colours are as beautiful as a Miami sunset. The acting is amazing – all three who play Chiron are fantastic, but it’s Sanders whose Chiron has to go through lots of pain and agony, and being beaten up by homophobic school bullies. The music, by Nicholas Britell, is very subtle and sets the right mood. Moonlight has won lots of film awards and is on track to give ‘La La Land’ a run for it’s money at the upcoming Academy Awards. Kudos to director and writer Barry Jenkins for bringing a rich, moving story of a young black gay man to the big screen – it’s a story that’s not been told before – and it works so fine.
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Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.