With Naomie Harris’s raw and powerful performance, a charming cameo by Janelle Monae, and with Barry Jenkins at the helm as writer and director, Moonlight is a gem, a powerful coming of age tale.
At the center of the film is Chiron (played by three actors – Alex Hibbert, as the young boy, Ashton Sanders, as an adolescent, and Trevante Rhodes as a young adult). With Chiron as the vehicle, the film explores the intersection of race, identity, and the ravages of addiction in South Florida. As the latchkey son of a drug-addicted mother, Chiron tries to come to grips with the growing realization that he’s not like other boys his age.
The real beauty the film is how it delicately, unapologetically explores a topic that is polarizing, especially for black men, skillfully grounding it in the most universal of truths: love, is love is just love.
The young actors who play Chiron deliver considered performances, transitioning the character from his beleaguered youth to a physically powerful, yet still vulnerable, young adult as seamlessly as skilled athletes hand over the baton during a relay race.
Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali
We would be remiss to ignore Mahershala Ali’s performance as Juan, who skillfully portrays a drug dealer at the height of war on drugs, who also manages to be a caring surrogate father to a young man who is in need of an anchor.
Moonlight, which premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September, is one to watch when award season rolls around.
Moonlight opens nationwide October 28, 2016. Highly recommended.
Top photo: Alex Hibbert
Photos by David Bornfriend courtesy of A24