‘Moonlight’ – hard to watch but worth it!

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Fabian Brims, Staff Writer

‘Moonlight’ is a drama about a young black man growing up in today’s America. It was written and directed by Barry Jenkins based on a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Almost like the movie ‘Boyhood’, ‘Moonlight’ follows the protagonist Chiron from childhood to being a young adult. However, in this movie the protagonist’s different ages are represented by different actors, which give it the advantage as it didn’t take 20 years to make the movie.

When a bunch of bullies chase young Chiron (Alex Hibbert), approximately 7 years old, into an abandoned motel, he is found by Juan (Mahershala Ali), the local crack dealer. Because Chiron doesn’t talk, he brings him to his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe). She takes care of him and after spending the night, he finally starts talking and Juan brings him home to his mother Paula (Naomie Harris). She is a crack addict and also prostitutes herself, and her behavior towards her son is emotionally abusive. At school Chiron gets bullied a lot. Most kids just call him ‘little’. However, he does have a best friend named Kevin (Jaden Piner), and he is the only one that spends time with Chiron.

The second of three chapters of the movie takes place about ten years later. Chiron (now played by Ashton Sanders) gets still bullied at school, especially by a kid named Terell. Kevin is still his only friend, and one evening when the two smoke a blunt on the beach, they talk about their lives, which ends with Kevin kissing Chiron and giving him a passionate hand job. Chiron is very confused about his sexuality and the relationship with his best friend. Back in school, when Terell dares Kevin to hit Chiron, things escalate.

Another ten years later we see Chiron as a young adult (now played by Trevante Rhodes) who is now a drug dealer like his childhood mentor Juan. He not only looks like him, he also drives the same car. When one day he gets an unexpected phone call from Kevin (now André Holland), he has to choose if he wants to face the demons of his childhood and find out who he really is.

‘Moonlight’ is a character drama, and at times it’s clear that it is adapted from a play. Jenkins did an excellent job directing the actors: Every performance is brilliant, particularly Naomie Harris’. Her character is not only believable but also ambivalent as she loves and abuses her child. This realistic portrayal is so compelling; it’s actually quite scary. I also want to point out the cinematography. This is an indie-drama with a limited budget of five million dollars. However, this movie never looks cheap and amazes with some really nice shots and unusual perspectives.

This story is important because it gives a voice to people that usually aren’t heard. Poor people have fewer opportunities in life, and it is hurtful to watch how Chiron has to grow up in this environment. There are many kids like him out there, and perhaps this movie will help some of them to find their own way and overcome their own demons. ‘Moonlight’ is a movie full of bitter moments, but there are also happy times for Chiron. This realistic portrayal of a kid finding his way is definitely worth watching, but it’s not an easy one. However, the viewer gets rewarded with amazing performances from the whole crew. It is clearly a movie they all wanted to make because they knew it could make a difference.

Moonlight (2016); written & directed by Barry Jenkins; with Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali; 110 min; rated R

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