By Ryan Keating-Lambert

★★★★★

An extraordinary portrayal of a boy’s life and struggle with identity and sexuality. Fresh and fine tuned character building at its best. Nominated for 8 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, this is one film that deserves them all.

Moonlight tells the story of three distinctive chapters in a boy’s life and his coming-to-terms with sexuality, bullying, and an abusive mother in the rough outskirts of Miami. With the help of local drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his wife, Chiron or ‘Little'(Alex R. Hibbert) uncovers some hope and direction in his life that was never there before.

It’s easy to build up unmanageable expectations when a film is as groundbreaking as this one, and on top of that has won so many awards (152 and counting), but Moonlight lived up to everything plus more. Director Barry Jenkins has created a truly memorable adaptation of the play ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue’ by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

The subject of being gay and black is one that’s still taboo in many parts of the world, and the fact that Jenkins can bring to life such an inspiring and heartwarming story is a just achievement in itself. But it’s his execution of this story that makes it so beautiful. There’s always a temptation to go overboard with sex and controversy, especially in queer film where people want to make a strong impact and provoke discussion, but Moonlight relies more on the subtleties. The struggle of trying to remain hidden in an environment where masculinity is out of control.

All three actors who play Chiron over his moonlight metamorphosis bring the character to an amazing level. Alex. R. Hibbert sucks us in from Chiron’s first painful moments, Ashton Sanders holds us there and takes us to violent revelations, before Trevante Rhodes shines as the curious and hypermasculine adult version of Chiron known as ‘Black’. The three actors thrive on the lack of dialogue and focus on the physical.

Mahershala Ali (Free State of Jones, House of Cards) also gives an impressionable (Best Supporting Actor nomination) performance as Chiron’s mentor and father figure Juan, despite his appearance being brief. Naomie Harris (28 Days Later, Skyfall) is impeccable at bringing out the chaos in Chiron’s crack addicted mother Paula, and has also been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actress Category. Her performance, like the whole film, is just so realistic and fluid.

Chiron’s curiosity and his timid relationship with friend Kevin is highlighted by a lingering neon haze of stunning pinks and blues, and gritty down to earth cinematography that has also snagged an Oscar nomination. Along with the classical and melancholic soundtrack by Nicholas Britell,  the whole film is bathed in warmth and a pleasure for the senses.

It’s 2017 now, and the queer film industry still hasn’t been properly tapped into. Moonlight is the first great attempt to really build something unique and forward. And in these turbulent times, it’s exactly what we need.

Photo: Official Site

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