Direction: Barry Jenkins
Actors: Trevante Rhodes, Naomi Harris
Rating: 5 / 5
Moonlight represents American independent cinema at its finest.
This feature by the African-American writer-director Barry Jenkins is a heart-wrenching chronicle of a gay black man’s struggles with identity and self-discovery as he fights notions of race, masculinity and sexuality over three defining stages of his life.
The script is based on a story by Tarell Alvin McCraney and initially focuses on ‘Little’, a pre-teen boy (Alex Hibbert) regularly bullied at school. He finds sanctuary with a local drug dealer (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend (pop singer Janelle Monae, impressive).
In the second segment, Chiron (Ashton Sanders) must also contend with his cocaine-addled mother (Naomie Harris, spellbinding), and is initiated into his first sexual experience by his only friend at school.
Finally, as an adult referred to simply as ‘Black’ (Trevante Rhodes), he reconnects both with his mother and his first and only object of desire (Andre Holland), who now works at a diner.
Jenkins coaxes achingly authentic performances from the three actors who portray Chiron.
Equally compelling are the supporting performances, particularly a career-making turn by Mahershala Ali. It’s difficult to recall the last time a drug lord was portrayed with such empathy and compassion. Sustaining a rhythm uniquely its own, the film captures the agony and ecstasy of first love with painful clarity.
Viewers seeking more rewarding fare than the usual malarkey are advised to make time for Moonlight. It will likely have a very limited commercial run.
Watch the trailer for Moonlight here