In Theatres: 
Oct 28, 2016
Running Time: 
110 minutes

In a time where sequels, remakes, and reboots flood the theaters, Moonlight is a refreshing story that’s not only unique but also absolutely necessary. It’s an intimately personal story with universal appeal that is captivating from beginning to end. There’s no other film quite like it.


Moonlight is told in three chapters, each revolving around a different period of a young black boy named Chiron’s life. The first chapter, dubbed “Little” after his nickname, introduces a small and shy Chiron (Alex Hibbert) who is continually bullied by everyone else for his reclusive nature. After being chased into an abandoned building by a group of kids one day, Chiron is found by Juan (Mahershala Ali), a local drug deal who helps him out before returning him to his abusive mother Paula (Naomie Harris).


The first chapter is highlighted by Mahershala Ali’s amazing performance. Juan, who acts like a father figure to Chiron, teaches the young boy about life, how to defend himself, and even how to swim. The affection he shows him is genuine and while he doesn’t shy away from telling Chiron the truth, you can see the pain and hesitation in his tone when he talks of the harsh realities of life and his job. The fact that he’s a drug dealer doesn’t define Ali’s character. It’s merely an aspect of his life that has shaped only a part of him throughout the years. It doesn’t take away that he’s also a loving and strong influence over an impressionable young boy.


We next see Chiron (Ashton Sanders) as a teenager in highschool and while he’s grown a bit, he’s still picked on by his classmates. He finds solace in his only friend, Kevin (Jharrel Jerome), and the two eventually share an intimate moment together on a beach in the moonlight. Even though he’s older, Chiron is still basically the same “Little” we say in the first chapter, and while Juan is now out of the picture Kevin is the influencing figure in his life.


Chapter ii is is much about the peer pressure of high school and how it wants us all to conform to this sameness, but the characters are anything but that. This specific period in Chiron’s life is the turning point for him. This is when he first explores his sexuality, which only further complicates things for him initially. Chiron is used to being teased by everyone else, but when Kevin starts beating him up as part of a hazing ritual it causes him to snap and take a wooden chair to the back of his bully. It’s a familiar scenario we’ve all seen before, but Moonlight makes it feel more personal and genuine.


The last chapter follows an adult Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) who is now a hardened drug dealer much like Juan. Despite being out of touch since high school, he randomly gets a late night call from Kevin who invites him down to Miami where he works as a cook so they can catch up. Both their lives have gone in drastic directions, but at the heart they’re still the same kids they were way back when.


What’s amazing about Moonlight is the story it tells. We’re given three different actors all playing the same character, and while they all feel distinct in their own manner, they still resonate on the same level and share many of the same mannerisms across the board. You’re with Chiron for these three big moments of his life. The only negative thing about it is that it’s unfortunate that we don’t see more of the time in between. Director Barry Jenkins has done a phenomenal job at adapting Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, and exploring both black and gay culture without any over-exaggeration. These are characters we don’t see enough of in Hollywood. It forces audiences to look beyond what you see on the surface and find deeper meaning within people.


Moonlight is an illuminating work of cinema that addresses the struggles of identity head on and one that will no doubt have a lasting impact on the industry. It’s a film that begs to be seen by all.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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