There is a prevailing intangible element in Moonlight that proves staggeringly tender. The emotional maturity and intimacy of this powerful film from writer/director Barry Jenkins on full display, even when our main character is being scolded and ignored by his mother, picked on my classmates, or driving alone at night on a desolate highway.
A trip triptych of stories that follows Chiron at three pivotal moments in his life – childhood, adolescence, adulthood – the power of Moonlight lies within its restraint and serenity. After all, our main characters is incredibly shy; while he doesn’t say too much, when he does, it’s important. Still, he’s expressions speak volumes.
There are reasons he’s so hesitant. One involves a fractured home life and often being on his own. Another is he knows he’s different than others, and his internal desires make him a subject of ridicule. He has complex feelings for his best friend. That he is African American only compounds his problems in this film that tackles the intersectionality of race, class, and gender.
Played progressively by three different actors, Chiron’s growth is exponentially stunning and at times heartbreaking. He remains a shy, vulnerable person forced to keep people at a distance and protect himself, but the way he responds to these confines change.
The film evokes Boyhood, though shorter in scope and length, but still playing against convention, detailing defining moments in life while breezing through time and showing change without explicitly talking about it. The results are riveting.
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