The second feature from acclaimed writer-director Barry Jenkins is an impeccably crafted study of African-American masculinity that follows its young protagonist from childhood to adulthood as he navigates the dangers of homophobia, drugs, and violence.
Though his story begins in late-1980s Miami, Jenkins shuns the familiar neon-lit hot spots in favour of a neglected neighbourhood caught in the throes of a crack epidemic. Here we meet young Chiron. Bullied at school and beaten down by a harsh home life, Chiron finds solace and comfort in the love and pride promoted by his surrogate parents. Despite his small stature and taciturn nature, Chiron is a survivor, and, as he grows, it becomes clear that his real battle is not even on the streets. It is an internal one: reckoning with his complex love for his best friend.
Presented in three acts, Moonlight takes Chiron from childhood (Alex Hibbert) to his teens (Ashton Sanders) to adulthood, but defies coming-of-age conventions. Instead, Jenkins immerses us in an atmospheric subjectivity, an impressionistic vision of Chiron’s psyche in which sensuality, pain, and unhealed wounds take centre stage with staggering power. Anchored by an unforgettable performance by emerging talent Trevante Rhodes (as the older Chiron), Moonlight explores the profoundly human need to feel connected, while remaining firmly grounded in a specific understanding of African-American experience.
“It’s a true American masterpiece and one of the best films of the decade.” (Tirdad Derakhshani, Philadelphia Inquirer)
“In its quietly radical grace, it’s a cultural watershed—a work that dismantles all the ways our media view young black men and puts in their place a series of intimate truths. You walk out feeling dazed, more whole, a little cleaner.” (Ty Burr, Boston Globe)
“Directed with superb control and insight by Jenkins, Moonlight achieves the near-impossible in film, which is to ground its story and characters in a place and time of granular specificity and simultaneously make them immediately relatable and universal.” (Ann Hornaday, Washington Post)