Moonlight follows Chiron, a young closeted black man growing up in an urban environment. Director Berry Jenkins brings the struggle to life over the course of the character’s experience: as a grade schooler nicknamed Little (Alex Hibbert), as a high schooler (Ashton Sanders), and as a grown man nicknamed Black (Trevante Rhodes). All three actors were amazing but Ashton Sanders stands out in the second act. The pain behind his character’s eyes feels the most authentic and it is impossible not to empathize with his inner struggle.
The structure to the story is actually pretty interesting, because while we follow the same character throughout, the three separate acts function more like three different mini movies, each part focusing on a different problem in relation to his sexuality and the culture around him.
Moonlight won’t be for everyone, as it has little to no traditional “plot” and at times uses a slower, more deliberate pace. While I often do not enjoy character studies, this character felt unique. Even when at times the movie shows its smaller budget with shaky camera movements, they counter-balance it though a beautiful setting and pristine lighting.
Another minor criticism of the movie is it feels like it is pandering to the awards crowd. Some of the scenes towards the end of each act come off as heavy handed, especially with the accompanying music. These are the scenes that are just begging to be shown at the award shows so people at home can see what kind of movie it is.
I wish the style of this movie had been more original. I feel like I have seen similar scenes a thousand times before, especially this time of year. However, this is still a quality and unique story. I can’t think of another movie I have seen with a gay black man as the central focus, I hope this will lead to an influx of more movies like this. B