This film is intense, sad, and inspiring and a great piece of movie-making by Director and Screenwriter Barry Jenkins who grew up in the same poverty-stricken ‘hood in Miami as the setting of “Moonlight.” The story begins by following the gloomy life of a young boy whose mother is more interested in crack and men than taking care of Chiron.
Little Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert) is small and meek and bullied; his best friend and male role model is Juan (Mahershala Ali), the local drug dealer. He sheepishly asked Juan – “what’s a faggot?”
The story then jumps to teenager Chiron (Ashton Sanders) who is still being shoved around by the tough guys in his Miami ghetto high school that sends the signal that nobody cares and there’s no way out. Chiron’s mother is still alive and constantly needing money for drugs because “I ain’t feeling good, Honey, and I need something to make me feel better… give me the damn money.”
Mahershala Ali is having a banner year in movies and his characterization of Juan the Drug Dealer puts him in my top five contenders for Best Supporting Actor. I’m pulling for his Oscar nomination to be announced on the early morning of January 24th.
Jenkins’ characters use the “N word,” “Homey” and “Dog” routinely and talk the trash of the mean streets of Miami. He’s obviously been there and done that.
Janelle Monae, who was so impressive as Mary Jackson in “Hidden Figures,” again gets to display her acting ability as Teresa, the main squeeze of Juan, and part of the safety net for Chiron.
The adult Chiron, played by Trevante Rhodes, has well-developed muscles, a delicate ego, and is no longer a pushover. But the grown-up Chiron has some major baggage and Jenkins excels at revealing the phases and complications of life’s lessons and the struggles of a black man in America who was raised on the streets. And the greatest of these is love.
“Who is you, Chiron?” asks his old friend (Andre Holland) from high school. Outstanding acting; compelling story.
Rock ‘n Roll.
Grade 92. Larry H.