Powerful film fulfills hype

Jason Fontelieu, Deputy editor

Every second of director Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” contributes to this gorgeous triptych, a haunting narrative about an African American male’s journey of self-discovery.
The movie, one of the year’s most provocative films, denounces the stereotype of equating homosexuality with weakness. It centers on Chiron, an impoverished African-American male who faces the added challenge of being gay. Three actors portray Chiron – Alex Hibbert, as a child, Ashton Sanders, as a teenager, and Trevante Rhodes, as an adult. Each reveals his solemn solitude.
My only problem with this role division was that no single actor got enough screen time to make a run for best actor.
Actor Mahershala Ali stands out as Juan, a pragmatic, kind drug dealer, who takes young Chiron under his wing to protect him from bullies. Juan acts as a father figure to Chiron, treating him to luxuries he has never enjoyed, most poignantly a swim lesson in the aqua waters of Miami Beach. It’s a raw, dramatic and spiritual scene.
The brief relationship between the two characters is a soft attack on the idea of toxic masculinity, which deems intimacy and imagination antithetical to manhood. Ali’s absence from the rest of the film feels like a deliberate hole taken out of Chiron’s life.
Best actress nominee Naomie Harris plays Chiron’s mother, a woman you can’t help but hate. Her tender moments with her son are fleeting glimpses of her soul but are tragically eclipsed by her demanding crack addiction. The way her mood changes so quickly from smiling to screaming captures the reality of a drug addict’s mercurial moods. She did her homework for this role. The New York Times reports that she watched YouTube videos of interviews with addicts in crack dens.
The film’s technical aspects contribute monumentally. The cinematography centering on Ali’s character in the opening scene disorients the viewer and siphons the focus onto him. The score is perfect as well. The first number sets a 1970s vibe for the film’s initial time period. The soundtrack also includes melancholy jazz, rap, a touch of 1960s pop and a stately classical piece. Each sets the mood for the vicissitudes Chiron endures.
True, the film dragged here and there, but in hindsight, I see every detail that was shared epitomized a deliberate effort to reveal Chiron’s evolving character.
“Moonlight” has a strong shot at winning best supporting actor for Ali’s memorable performance and is perhaps one of, if not the only film able to give “La La Land” a run for its money for best picture.


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