Monday, November 28, 2016

Moonlight

Starring: Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Naomie Harris, Ashton Sanders
Director: Barry Jenkins
Running Time: 1 hour, 51 minutes

Rating: R

"Moonlight" is one of the most heartbreaking films I've ever watched. To call this a coming of age story is a bit of an understatement. Yes, we see our protagonist Chiron develop from age 8 to age 28 (or thereabouts) but we also see his attempt to overcome being a gay black male in a rough Miami neighborhood. This isn't just your average tale of growing up. The acting is incredible, each actor doing their character justice, with spot-on cinematography and a hauntingly beautiful score. Will this be a contender come Oscar season?  It's hard to say, but this is an extremely well-done film that's sure to leave tears in your eyes and a heaviness on your heart.

The film is broken into three parts. We first meet 8-year-old Chiron, aka Little, as he is running away from bullies. He finds himself in a drug house, and we immediately realize the type of neighborhood he lives in. Juan (Ali) finds him and serves as a sort of mentor, though he is in fact a drug dealer himself. Juan and his girlfriend Teresa (Monae) are seen parent figures to Little, much more so than his mother (Harris) who has recently developed an addiction to crack. Even at age 8, Little questions his sexuality and wonders why kids at school tease him and call him cruel, gay slurs. His friend Kevin encourages him to not be "soft" and fight back when he is bring picked on. This friendship with Kevin develops into a touching story line that we follow throughout the film. Juan and Teresa struggle with their role in Little's life, knowing his tumultuous home situation. The moment Little realizes Juan sells drugs for a living, and his mother takes drugs, is heartbreaking.

During part two, we meet Chiron, the alienated and bullied high school student, still being tormented for his sexuality. Chiron's struggle with his sexuality isn't the primary focus of the film, because everything in his life is an equally difficult struggle. He continues to spend time with Teresa as his own mother falls further and further into the drug world. One day, Chiron hits his breaking point. We see it building and building until it finally comes to a head. It was only a matter of time, and it's devastating to watch.

Part three introduces us to a whole new man: Black. He has become a drug dealer in Atlanta, and has developed a hard persona - the sensitive and naive boy we once knew is long gone. He gets a phone call from his old friend Kevin, and when they reunite, Kevin is also shocked at Black's new lifestyle. The two share a few powerful scenes over dinner at a diner, but for the most part, this was the weakest chapter in the film. It was also hard to see the vicious cycle of poverty and crime life continue to be played out.

Obviously, this is not a feel-good movie. My brow was furrowed the entire time. The three actors that played Chiron did it with such grace and courage. It's a beautiful movie, in its own dark way, but was very hard for me to watch.

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