MOONLIGHT, the latest oscar contender under our microscope, tells the story of a young man growing up in a rough area of Miami by showing us three key periods in his life.
Chiron is played by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes, each playing the character years after his predecessor. We first meet Hibbert playing Little (Chiron’s then nickname), a shy and timid boy with an emotionally abusive mother, Paula, who is played excellently by Naomi Harris.
Hiding from bullies, Little encounters local drug dealer, Juan, expertly portrayed by Mahershala Ali who makes it his responsibility to look after the troubled boy. We learn that Chiron is having trouble coming to terms with who he is, especially because of the abuse thrown at him from his crack-additct Mother.
The story is really about Chiron accepting himself for who he is. It’s also about his relationship with his childhood friend, Kevin (Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome and André Holland) and how their relationship evolves over the years.
Plot wise, there’s not an awful lot to talk about without spoiling the film. It’s a film which is purely character driven rather than plot driven and it’s quite brilliant. It’s a story so subtly told, handling important themes with nuance and delicacy but without shying away from the asking important questions. To divulge what these themes are might ruin the experience for some, so I won’t.
It’s beautifully directed by Barry Jenkins. The camera moves around the scenes to add an extra dynamic. It’s wonderfully acted from everyone involved and the transition from young to older characters is so good you actually feel like it’s the same person years later. Chiron has fundamental traits that are maintained subtly in each incarnation and that’s a testament to each of the actors who play him.