A deeply moving film on loneliness and longing, identity and abandonment, America and what it has wrought, Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight quietly bubbles over with grandiose emotion.
Three marvelous and relatively inexperienced actors portray the lead character over the film’s three acts, and his respective incarnations: Alex Hibbert as Little, Ashton Sanders as Chiron, and Trevante Rhodes as Black. A painfully shy and silent boy turned man, each actor conveys Chiron’s deep pools of hurt through their eyes.
From Little, who asks what a “faggot” is, to Chiron, bullied and beaten brutally, to Black, a hardened drug dealer closed off from his emotions and his past, only to be reawakened by a phone call from the only person who’s ever touched his heart. It’s an absolutely stunning journey and an absolutely stunning film.
2016 has been a rough year for black people, black men, queer people—really, people in general—but it’s also been a year of outstanding art and culture that challenged and reshaped the perception of black people in America, created, most astoundedly, by black people in America.
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For black gay boys like myself, Moonlight is our long-awaited masterpiece and Chiron is our long-awaited hero. It is a film that depicts and reaffirms our humanity; a love story that shows we, too, are capable of love and loving; a coming-of-age story that shows we, too, are American, and suffer our country’s slings and arrows for daring to be brown and queer. It’s a rare achievement and a rare story, told with as much beauty as one can muster.