moonlightMoonlight doesn’t have any major star-power going for it, but the film could easily become one of those smaller, underdog indies that breaks through the field this Awards season– if enough people see it and word of mouth spreads. It’s a poignant drama adapted from a play called “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The film chronicles a young black boy’s tumultuous and painful journey of self-discovery and sexual identity as he grows up in a rough Miami neighborhood. Three different actors portray the lead character Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes), and the transitions are impressively seamless.

Moonlight skillfully explores issues of race, sexuality, socio-economic status, and drugs without getting overly brutal or heavy-handed. I wasn’t quite as over-the-moon as some critics in terms of whether it should achieve Best Picture status, but I would suggest a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Mahershala Ali. He plays a sympathetic drug dealer named Juan who becomes a father figure to Chiron. Juan and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae) watch out for the boy whenever his mother Paula (Naomie Harris) goes on one of her drug-induced benders, which is often.

Moonlight feels a bit reminiscent of the groundbreaking territory explored in Brokeback Mountain, with young urban African-Americans instead of young, white cowboys. It’s a powerful story, with superb acting. I watched the movie at the Middleburg Film Festival and the audience was moved to applause, which is quite impressive considering the slate of Oscar-bait films that Moonlight was sharing the spotlight with.

One thought on “Moonlight”
  1. This is a standout, beautiful film! Great acting and direction. Amazing character development. I see it doing very well in awards season. It grapples with black identity, absent fathers, drugs, and homosexuality without ever being hit over the head with any of it. It is a tale of human connection and yearning that is it heartbreaking at times. I agree that Mahershala Ali is a powerful presence, but perhaps that’s because he is the best known actor in the film. When his character disappeared from the film, I missed him. I thought Naomie Harris as the junkie mom was also amazing. But it is Chiron’s journey and the three actors really do him justice.

    I hope that black audiences see this film. And not just the small set who are into arty films. As the film shows, there is still a huge stigma within the community around homosexuality and what it means to be a man. The telling of this story might open some eyes, and hearts. It is so well done.

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