Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali
Running Time: 11mins
Moonlight follows a young boy named Chiron as he tries to find his way in the world that seems to be doing everything it can to put him down. Split into three superbly well made sections from different times in his life; Little at age 11, Chiron whilst in High School and Black when a fully grown adult.
Little is picked on, not just for his small size but for being different, quiet and unassured, lacking in confidence which not only stems from his mother’s neglect and abusive attitude towards him and placing him below her need for drugs but also for him being confused about his sexuality. Little is trying to find out who he is and where he fits into this society; beaten up and chased by other boys, left to fend for himself at home and treated abysmally by his mother it is no wonder that he has confidence issues. A chance encounter with Juan (the excellent Mahershala Ali), a local drug dealer with a friendly side and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae), introduces him to a more stable side of life, one where kindness and acceptance is the norm and also allows him to ask questions and explore who he is without the fear of recrimination.
As we transition from Little we see Chiron as a teenager and it is painfully clear that his up-bringing and home life have severely impacted on his development socially and his confidence is still nonexistent. He is still a target for bullies and he is still cripplingly shy and confused as to who he is and who he is meant, and wants, to be. Just when Chiron is meant to be finding himself he is weighed down by the role reversal of him being the carer to his mother as she continues to struggle with drug dependence. High School can be an awkward and nasty place at the best of times, but even more so if you are deemed “different” or not socially acceptable, as Chiron is labelled by his popular oppressor.
The performances from the three ages of Chiron are superb throughout. Alex Hibbert as Little, Ashton Sanders as teenage Chiron and Trevante Rhodes as grown-up Black, although I have to give most credit to Trevante as his ability to convey the confidence of a grown man but also be able to revert back to the insecurity of his youth is an astounding piece of acting. Naomie Harris is simply superb as the weak willed, self interested, drug addicted mother. Already mentioned are Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monae, as Juan and Teresa, both aren’t in the film much but they embody their characters really well.
I found myself enrapt by James Laxton’s visuals, he has captured the glorious colours of the Miami setting and has some wonderful framing of shots, adding to the action playing out on the screen. The dialogue is there and it is meaningful but it isn’t overpowering. Chiron speaks most loudly through his awkward body language, and it is a masterclass from all the Chirons from his first scene to his last. Barry Jenkins has done a superb job to bring this film to the screen and has rightly been rewarded with plenty of awards nominations.
Moonlight is a really, really great film. A harsh but all too identifiably human journey of a confused and unsupported young man as he seeks to find his place and accept who he is. Superb performances and amazing direction stitch this story together in a truly compelling way. I found myself completely drawn into Chiron’s world and the struggles that he had to face. I can’t wait to see this again.