Moonlight (2016) – Review

4 Stars

Moonlight will be unfairly categorized as the 2016 urban version of Brokeback Mountain, but the designation just doesn’t fit. This is a uniquely designed film that contains beauty, anger, regret, and love into a tragedy about self discovery. No amount of hyperbole will convince close-minded people to give the film a chance. Those willing to submit themselves to this seductively told story will be moved and challenged by the masterful work from director Barry Jenkins.

Chiron is a young boy who is constantly taunted by the neighborhood kids for being different. One day while fleeing from a beating at the hands of bullies Chiron meets Blue (Mahershala Ali), a local drug dealer with a soft spot for the undersized little boy. The two form a bond and Blue becomes an unofficial father figure to the introspective Chiron. Things are complicated by the fact that Blue sells crack to Chiron’s abusive sexually promiscuous mother (Naomie Harris).

Then the story re-introduces us to Chrion (Ashton Sanders) at age 16. Now in high-school, he’s still teased for his effeminate behavior and unaggressive nature. His only friend is Kevin, a seemingly straight arrow, who turns out to be keeping the same secret inside. The two have a sexual encounter that becomes the turning point in both of their lives.

Later we meet Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) as a grown and hardened man of 25. Heavily muscled and adorned in flashy jewelry the weak boy has developed into an intimidating presence. Under the moniker “Black” he is a street hustler just like his father figure all those years ago. Then one day he receives a call from Kevin and a decades’ worth of emotions come rushing back.

The haunting score from composer Nicholas Britell gives the film an eerie, remorseful vibe that colludes with the visual imagery and the story’s overall theme. Much was made of Boyhood and the performance of its young star, but that is amateurish in comparison to the outstanding work from all three actor who portray Chrion in various stages of maturation. Moonlight is a quietly affecting piece of art. It’s a moody, tale of desperation, deception, and forgiveness.

Director: Barry Jenkins
Stars: Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali

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