REVIEW – Boyhood meets Brokeback Mountain meets Boys n’ the Hood is a terrible description of Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight.
A portrait of young gay black man coming of age in Miami is a wonderful and serious movie that needs to be seen. Divided into three chapters, the film begins with Chiron “Little” (Alex R. Hibbert), a boy whose life is dominated by his addict mother (Naomie Harris) and bullying school mates. He finds an unlikely ally in Juan (Mahershala Ali), a local drug dealer who takes pity on the kid and offers guidance as well as swimming lessons. Along with his partner Teresa (Janelle Monáe), Little finally has a safe space.
The film is built on ellipses and we are never explicitly given any motivation for Juan’s kindness. Crucial events also occur between the lines as we skip ahead to the teenaged Chiron (Ashton Sanders). But his problems continue with his harsh environment and the constant threat of violence. Finally, the grown Chiron has become a survivor, hard and as inflexible as scar tissue.
Based on Tarell Alvin McCrane’s stage play, Jenkins has created an intensely personal film about the cost of survival. Without detracting from the sun soaked delights of La La Land, it’s instructive to see how different life can be. And how certain freedoms we believe to be won, battles done and dusted, are still alive and being fought for daily.