Review: ‘Moonlight’ Beautifully Melds Three Actors Into One Man Searching for Identity


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In Moonlight, we had one of the more creative offerings of the Telluride Festival. Writer-director Barry Jenkins spins the story of a black youth, Chiron, growing up in poverty-stricken Miami. His early, “free floating” feelings of difference from others slowly crystallize into a realization that he is gay. Jenkins shows us slices of Chiron’s life; first as a silent boy, then a confused teenager, and finally a prison-toughened young adult. Each of these life stages is played by a different actor.

The young Chiron is played beautifully by Alex R. Hibbert. The teenaged Chiron is well played by Trevante Rhodes. Adult Chiron is portrayed by Ashton Sanders. Here’s the amazing thing. Through brilliant casting, masterful direction, or both, all of our Chirons really seem to be the same person in different developmental stages. The sensitivity in the eyes of little boy Chiron and adult Chiron feel and look the same.


Mahershala Ali (Remy Danton in House of Cards) deserves a special mention for his role as Juan, the drug dealer.

Jenkins has magically led us to believe that we are watching one person, an authentic Chiron, in his tortured path to self-realization. Throughout the film, we get a disturbing view of Miami’s ghetto drug culture. Unfortunately, Chiron’s mother is one of its victims.

This is a film of great insight and sensitivity. All of the Chirons do great justice to Jenkins’ script. The realities of being young and gay in a straight dominated culture are dramatically presented. We see how cruel children and teenagers can be to those they see as different from themselves.

The ending of the story might not provide sufficient closure for many in the audience, but the story has not really ended. Moonlight is a well-constructed, well-acted and sensitive examination of a developing life. This is a film that you should definitely put on the “must see” list.

Check out the trailer for Moonlight below.


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