A young African American boy, named Chiron, nicknamed Little, (Alex Hibbert) is growing up in a dangerous neighborhood in Miami. His mother, Paula, (Naomie Harris) is addicted to crack cocaine, and Little is bullied by the neighborhood kids. His only solace from his mother and the bullies, is a local drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend Theresa. (Janelle Monae) Juan takes Little under his wing, and gives him advice and a shoulder to lean on. In the midst of all the madness, Little finds one friend, named Kevin. (Jaden Piner) Kevin is one of the few people Little can be comfortable with.
As Little becomes a teenager, he is given a new nickname by Kevin. (Jharrell Jerome) Kevin now calls Little, Black, (Trevante Rhodes) because of his dark complexion. The friendship intensifies, but when a bully named Terrel (Patrick Decile) asks Kevin to knock Black down, Kevin complies, more than once. How does this incident affect their friendship? How does this incident affect Chiron’s adult life?
The aspect of Chiron’s life that causes him to be bullied from his childhood to his teen years is never spoken about in the setting in which this movie takes place. That in itself makes this a unique film. The way Chiron’s life is broken up into three distinct segments, pre-teen, teen, and adult also makes for interesting storytelling. The exceptional part of this movie is how the writing balances sensitivity with realism. Moonlight is not perfect however, one of the characters just disappears in the first third of the movie, without explanation. In addition, the ending is decidedly Hollywood in a movie that is decidedly un-Hollywood. Even with its flaws, this movie undoubtedly deserved the Best Picture Oscar, for its unique story and unique way of telling the story.
The acting is superb. Mahershala Ali definitely deserved the Academy Award for supporting actor, there’s a debate about that, but it’s not up for debate with me, it was a great performance plain and simple. Naomie Harris plays a difficult to like role in an earnest way, she wants to take care of her son but her addiction precludes her from doing so. The kids playing Little and Black, Alex Hibbert and Trevante Rhodes are excellent and bring real emotion to their roles. The kids playing Kevin are also very good.
The direction is good. Barry Jenkins is wise to split the story into three parts, it makes the pacing faster and it makes the audience anxious to see what follows. Jenkins also gets great performances from his cast. This is a great movie and Jenkins is a large reason why.
Moonlight: Full of surprises