A young boy battles a raft of human challenges, from his mother’s drug addiction to relentless bullying, in this heart-tugging film.
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Moonlight is broken into three powerful chapters that each chronicle a different stage in the central character’s—Chiron’s—life. This is an immersive tale of a young man growing up in a very hard place, told with a distinct sensitivity and warmth.
Within moments of the opening music, you are literally sent spiralling through the life of Little as he is known as a boy (Little is played tenderly by Alex Hibbert). Visually, you are spinning, but with every momentary pause, you find yourself locking eyes with one of the many flawed but fascinating characters in Chiron’s life.
The first influence in Chiron’s young life is Juan (Mahershala Ali), the local drug lord. Juan rescues Little from bullies and soon becomes a father like figure in his life. But, it’s a complicated relationship. Unfortunately, Juan is also the man who sells Chiron’s mother her drugs, and he is, in part, to blame for Chiron needing support. This vicious and conflicting cycle is one of several that Chiron must overcome.
In the second chapter of the film, a teenage Chiron (played by Ashton Sanders), continues to battle through his days, an easy target for the harder teens at his now high school. His mother’s addiction has completely taken her over, and Chiron is no longer safe, even from her. Chiron is also discovering his sexuality, which again doesn’t fit with the damaged society he inhabits.
As an adult, Chiron (Trevante Rhodes)—known now as Black—is a complex product of all the various stages of his life. He appears to have come full circle. You can see elements of Juan in him, as well as the tender boy he once was. He has maintained his struggles, despite having left many of them behind. This final chapter leaves its mark, with a poignancy and tragedy—as does the film.
Moonlight is a film that moves you. It makes you uncomfortable and sad, and yet it also has a tenderness and warmth that’s endearing. The performances are outstanding and the emotions are immersive.
Be prepared for a little shaky cam, as well as to be shaken by this powerful human story.
Director: Barry Jenkins
Stars: Mahershala Ali, Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert
Runtime: 1hr 51 mins
Release Date: January 26
Reviewer Rating: 4/5