This past Saturday, I took myself and a friend to go see the critically acclaimed film by Barry Jenkins called “Moonlight” at Chelsea Cinepolis on 23rd and 8th Avenue. The film chronicles the life of a young black man from child to adult as he struggles to find his own identity in a rough part of Miami. Throughout the film, you get a first hand experience of the pain and suffering he goes through, which is something you don’t really get to experience much in the movies as of late.
Barry Jenkins did an unbelievably fantastic job at breaking down the film into three parts for the main character- as a boy, as a teenager and as an adult. Each chapter in his life showcases the turmoil that is all around the main character, who doesn’t speak much but when he does elicits so much of what he is feeling to the best of his abilities.
Moonlight starts with the main character as a boy, called “Little”, played by rising star Alex R. Hibbert. Off the bat, it is very clear that the character of Little is subject to bullying, given that the first scene of the movie shows him running away from his other classmates and hiding inside an abandoned apartment. It is there where a local drug dealer named Juan, brilliantly played by Mahershala Ali, finds him and tries to figure out where he comes from and what he’s about. He brings him back to his apartment with his girlfriend Teresa, also brilliantly played by music superstar Janelle Monae, who both unsuccessfully try to get him to talk and after a night of him staying at their place, Juan brings him back to his mother.
Little’s mother plays a crucial role of this film, in that she essentially is a pivotal part as to why the main character is more visual than verbal. Naomie Harris, an Oscar frontrunner for this film, plays Little’s mother Paula, who doesn’t show it in the beginning but as time goes on throughout the film is in a deep drug addiction, and spends more time getting high and with the men in her life than with Little in the first place. Juan and Teresa essentially provide an escape for his character, which plays well into his teen years.
Chapter two showcases Little’s transition into his teen years, where he is now know by as Chiron, played by Ashton Sanders. Things don’t look like they have gotten any easier for Chiron, given that Teresa is still doing a ton of drugs and the bullies at his school are still all around him, repeatedly calling him gay slurs during classrooms. He does have a friend in Kevin, who nicknames Chiron “Black”, played fantastically by Jharrel Jerome. Kevin is the only one in his school it seems who really gets him to open up and speak, however Kevin also plays a different vital role in Chiron figuring out his sexuality, as it seems like he is into him as more than a friend. That play itself out in a big way they are both at the beach, and then takes a complete downwards spiral shortly after that with an incident at school.
Thus leads to Chapter 3 of the movie, where Chiron is a full grown man, known by “Black” and played by Trevante Rhodes. Black moved himself up to Atlanta to get away from all the pain and agony Miami has caused him, and seems to be doing decently up there, until he gets a call from Kevin. The call from Kevin shakes Black in such a way that he decides to head back down to Miami and settle things with both him and his mother Teresa. It is at this point that you see Black come full circle with his life, and ultimately what he has needed all along. I’ll leave that up to the readers to find out what that is, but “Moonlight” overall really encompasses so many different types of emotion that the character goes through in his formative and adult years, and even though it ends somewhat abruptly, you get the sense that he will be OK moving forward in life.
I give Barry Jenkins a ton of credit for making such an amazing movie in “Moonlight”. It is one of the best movies I have seen in years, and a surefire contender for awards season coming up, in particular Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris. For more information on “Moonlight”, check out the official site.