Friday, November 18, 2016

The Touching Artful Aura Of Barry Jenkins' MOONLIGHT


Now playing at both multiplexes and indie art houses near me:

MOONLIGHT (Dir. Barry Jenkins, 2016)



If you’ve been following film this year, you may have heard some of the buzz surrounding Barry Jenkins’ second film MOONLIGHT, his follow-up to his 2008 debut MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY (currently streaming on Netflix and well worth a watch).

The acclaim is deserved for Jenkins’ coming-of-age tale told in three parts is a wonderful, touching, and very real feeling work of indie art.

Taking its inspiration from the short conceptual play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, MOONLIGHT is the Miami -set story of a young African American male named Chiron who is played by three different actors representing different ages of the character.

In the first chapter, entitled “Little,” Alex Hibbert embodies the 9-year old Chiron, nicknamed Little, who find a father figure in Juan, a crack dealer sharply played by Mahershala Ali (House of Cards, Luke Cage), that is, until he realizes that his abusive mother (Naomi Harris, best known as the latest incarnation of Moneypenny in the James Bond series) buys her drugs from Juan. We also introduced to young Chiron’s best friend Kevin (Jaden Piner), whose presence we’ll understand better later.

The second segment, simply named “Chiron,” features our protagonist as a teenager played by Ashton Sanders, as he maneuvers through high school bullying and an even rougher home-life as his mother has worsened into crack cocaine addiction. Things get strained between Chiron and Kevin (now played by Jharrel Jerome) when Kevin gets caught up in a hazing ritual with a bully who’s been tormenting Chiron, and Kevin is pressured into fighting his friend.

The concluding chapter, “Black” (another nickname), catches up with Chiron in his 20s portrayed by Trevante Rhodes. Chiron has grown up to be a drug dealer living outside of Atlanta, but he journeys back to Miami when he gets a call from Kevin, now played by André Holland. Chiron shows up at the restaurant that Kevin works at and his old friend is surprised by his new buff appearance.

That’s as far as I’ll go as the broad strokes of my plot description won’t do justice to the sheer beauty of how Chiron’s story unfolds. MOONLIGHT may be the most convincing love story on the big screen this year. It’s also a supreme character study which focuses on gender identity, and the difficulties in achieving intimacy in a cold, brutal world.

“I’m me, man - ain’t trying to be nothing else,” Rhodes’ Chiron tells Holland’s Kevin, who responds “Oh, okay - so you hard now?” Chiron answers “No, I ain’t say that.” To that Kevin says “Well, then what?”

In that exchange lies the aching crux of the film’s exploration of black gay masculinity. Chiron grows up poor, fatherless, and conflicted about his sexuality, but there may be some light before he reaches the end of the tunnel. Chiron can see and feel it when he and Kevin re-visit the same beach where they kissed as teens and the sand and water are illuminated by, you know, the shining stuff that the film is named after.

Jenkins’ lovely, honest work here results in one of the year’s finest and most emotionally impactful films. It deserves a ton of awards season action for sure, but what it most deserves is bigger audiences. It’s been gaining traction on the indie circuit (it just opened at a handful of theaters in my area), but it’s still being overshadowed by the scores of better promoted, studio-produced heavy hitters at the multiplexes.

So I urge lovers of small, yet largely affecting films to seek out MOONLIGHT. Its touching artful aura is well worth basking in.

More later...

1 comment:

osama khan said...

Great Info about the on of my Favorite movie MOONLIGHT"

I am happy to give you a great news that the movie is also selected for the best picture for Oscar Nomination 2017.

Here is the link of the News.
http://academyawardnominations2017.com/category/best-picture/oscar-moonlight/