Moonlight (15)

Drama (2016)
111mins US

Starring: Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Naomie Harris, Alex Hibbert, Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders
Director: Barry Jenkins
Writer(s): Barry Jenkins
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Chiron is nicknamed Little because of his diminutive stature. He escapes the abuse of his drug addict mother Paula, and finds an unlikely friend in local crack dealer Juan and his girlfriend Teresa. They become surrogate parents to the boy as he musters the courage to stand up to local bullies and comes to terms with his attraction to his best friend Kevin.

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LondonNet Film Review
Moonlight (15)

Based on the stage play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, writer-director Barry Jenkins' tender coming-of-age drama finds hope, compassion and salvation in the darkest places. Moonlight glimpses abuse, regret and desire from the perspective of an African American boy struggling to come to terms with his sexuality against a backdrop of crime and punishment in Miami, Florida. Neatly bookmarked into three chapters which capture the central character at different points in his life, it is an extraordinary film of naked emotion, broken dreams and deep longing that upends stereotypes and speaks loudest in agonising silences between tortured characters...

Moonlight. Copyright: Altitude Releasing. Caption: Mahershala Ali and Alex Hibbert star in Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.Cinematographer James Laxton's bold choices - saturated colours, stark lighting - are echoed in the use of subtly different film stocks for each chapter; one brings out the actors' rich skin tones, another imbues each frame with a blue tinge. These choices are subtle, but demonstrate meticulous thought behind even the most simple shot of two characters in deep discussion, wrestling with demons of their shared past. Naomie Harris scorches every frame as a drug-addicted mother, whose lip-curling cruelty propels her wounded son into the surrogate care of her own dealer. Scenes of her taking money from her boy to feed her habit wrench at the heart, nicely offset by later scenes when she acknowledges the damage she has wrought. "You ain't gotta love me," she tearfully tells her boy, "Lord knows, I didn't have love for you when you needed it."

Twelve-year-old Chiron (Alex Hibbert) is one of the smallest boys in his year and an obvious target for bullies. Any beatings pale next to the pain inflicted by his mother Paula (Harris), who is a slave to her drug habit. Her neglect drives Chiron into the arms of dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae), who try to provide a stable home environment as he contends with growing pains. As Chiron grows into an awkward 16-year-old (now played by Ashton Sanders), the lad recognises his attraction to his best friend Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). Many years later, Chiron (now played by Trevante Rhodes), drives to the diner where Kevin (now played by Andre Holland) waits tables in order to purge the poison. "For a long time, I tried not to remember...," confesses Chiron to the only man he ever loved.

Moonlight is a wondrous collaboration between a director at the height of his powers and a cast willing to lay themselves emotionally bare for their art. Naturalistic performances from the three actors who play Chiron are exemplary, and Oscar nominees Ali and Harris age gracefully between each polished act. Every anguished syllable of dialogue glistens with authenticity, holding us spellbound as a curious boy becomes a damaged, yet gentle man.

- Sam Cannon

Moonlight. Copyright: Altitude Releasing. Caption: Mahershala Ali and Alex Hibbert star in Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

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