Review: Moonlight



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Well, that was certainly unexpected.

“Moonlight” is a beautiful, simple film chronicling the life of a black boy, teenager, and man named Chiron.  Growing up alone, with a crack-addicted mother and no father, Chiron – or “Little” (Alex R. Hibbert) as he is called as a boy – finds himself adopting make-shift parents.  “Teresa” (Janelle Monae) has the nurturing skills Chiron’s mother, “Paula” (Naomie Harris) lacks.  She takes an immediate liking to the boy, despite the fact that he will barely say more than three words at a time.  More powerful, though, is the relationship Chiron has with “Juan” (Mahershala Ali).  Juan is a drug dealer, who finds Chiron in an abandoned house where he hides from the neighborhood bullies.  Juan also happens to be the man who supplies Chiron’s mother with drugs, a fact that provides internal conflict for all involved.  That’s not the only internal conflict, though, as Chiron – even at a very early age – knows he is different than the other boys.  In a heartbreaking scene, he asks Teresa and Juan about it; I was in tears.

Eventually, Chiron becomes a teenager (Ashton Sanders).  He’s still quiet and now even more awkward.  He is constantly picked on, specifically by a boy named “Terell” (Patrick Decile) for no other reason than Chiron seems like an easy target.  Things aren’t completely bleak, though, as Teresa is still ever-present in Chiron’s life.  And he does have a friend in “Kevin” (Jharrel Jerome).  They have a complicated relationship.  There’s betrayal, which causes Chiron to go on the offensive.  His life is forever changed.

We meet him many years later, now a man who goes by “Black” (Travante Rhodes), living in Atlanta, working the drug trade.  He’s done time, he’s no longer “soft;” but he’s still awkward, quiet, and he’s still very much Chiron. When he gets a phone call from Kevin (Andre Holland), now a cook at a diner back in Miami.  He goes to visit his mother and stops by to see his old friend.  The sexual tension rivals anything I’ve ever seen.

I cannot get over the simplicity and straightforwardness of this authentic coming of age tale.  And I definitely cannot believe how amazing the acting is, especially by the three actors who play Chiron.  While each embodies the character differently, the way you would expect based on their phase of life and their life experiences, there is a commonality among all three performances that is magnificent.

This very well might be the best movie of the year.

Good luck finding it outside of independent art houses; but if you can locate it, run – don’t walk – to see this movie today.

 

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