Directed by Barry Jenkins
Running Time 111 Minutes, Rated R.
4.5 Mitch’s out 5
Tender and somber among many things, Barry Jenkins “Moonlight” is hard to quantify but easy to qualify as one of 2016’s best films.
“Moonlight” lets us in on the life of Chiron in three chapters; played as a father starved young boy by Alex Hibbert, a scrawny and heavily bullied Ashton Sanders, and a projection of black masculinity by Trevante Rhodes. All three tight lipped with little to no eye contact and all desperately trying to avoid the pain that’s around each corner.
There is so much said in Jenkins tightly focused direction and script; from dealing with sexual identity in a culture where it is mostly reviled, the irony of the drug epidemic as it houses the suppliers and destroys the houses of the supplied, the bully nature of our youth, and the overall reaches of what it is not only to be black but a grown black man.
The true power of “Moonlight” though is how intimate it all feels. There is a wide scope of issues being told, but ultimately this is the story of Chiron and the heavier heart tug is pulled for your concern for him, his struggles, and his journey. When young Chiron meets up with Juan (wonderfully played by Mahershala Ali) he slowly soaks up his first sign of a father figure while coming across male attention that he’s unfamiliar with. A scene where Juan teaches Chiron to swim are as soft as the waves that lap upon the young boy’s face, but when he comes to realize that Juan is responsible for selling the drugs that are ruining his crack addicted mothers life, you can see him harden right before our eyes as he computes life’s hardships.
Jenkins camerawork feels like those South Miami waves at times, fluid and beautiful, ever moving as is Chiron’s life. Chiron’s life is a story not often told but I’m glad it was.