Moonlight (USA; 111 min.)

directed by:
Barry Jenkins
starring: Trevante Rhodes; Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders; Alex Hibbert; Naomie Harris

Michael says: "Barry Jenkins second feature film, following the delightful, indie romance, MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY, is a bit of a visual poem, exploring race and sexuality in a way that at first glance might seem straightforward, but is surely something we haven’t really seen on the big screen and coupled with lovely cinematic power. I have come to appreciate more and more the visual aspect of cinematic storytelling, and Jenkins has that aspect beautifully in hand. Told in three parts, MOONLIGHT follows the life of a young black man living in Miami from childhood to adulthood and his search for self-discovery in a society that expects little from him. Chiron is a sensitive kid, bullied by his classmates, and struggling with a mother addicted to drugs. He has one good friend his own age, Kevin, and surrogate parents of a sort in Juan and Teresa, who help him out after a particularly rough bit of bullying. Ironically, Juan is a crack dealer, and reconciling that with the difficulty faced by his mother provides Chiron with his central conflict as a child. As a teenager, a pivotal moment occurs to Chiron in school that directs the next decade or so of his life, so when we see him as an adult, we are both surprised and unsurprised at his place. To add to his already difficult challenges around drugs, violence, and social expectations, Chiron is gay, something that is at odds with the hyper-masculine subtext of black male culture.

“Jenkins tells a story that is gentle at its core, even while the threat of violence hovers throughout. At the core is a long-lasting love that survives years, and a yearning for something that seems impossible for someone like Chiron. The three actors who portray him at various point of his life are all terrific, lending a thoughtful, yet charismatic presence to the character. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride Jenkins took me on in MOONLIGHT, with its visual poetry and lyrical tale. As a coming of age story it works well, and provides a look at a culture that is not portrayed often. 4.5 cats