Moonlight Review (By B. Gunn)

Wassup, y’all! Growing up ain’t easy. Think back to when you were a child. Some of you may have been lucky enough to have both parents in the household and grandparents to guide you along when your parents’ knowledge was lacking in certain areas. Sitting in the bed watching Saturday morning cartoons then going outside to play with friends was the norm for a lot of us. Speaking of friends, who couldn’t wait to get back to school on Monday to see your best buddy and tell him or her what you did over the weekend since you hadn’t seen them in two whole days? Maybe you would let them borrow a toy or pencil, and when they didn’t return it, you two wouldn’t speak for days, but eventually iron things out on the playground and forget that thing ever happened. Now, those middle school/high school years were a beast! This is when we started learning about the in-crowd and being accepted. Boyfriends and girlfriends, peer pressure, following the masses, needing money…shyt was serious! Now, if you were lucky enough to graduate from high school and go on to get a higher education or just start working, this was the time when you were still trying to find yourself but had a better grasp on who you were. We started to face real adult issues like bills, families, vacation days, putting food on the table. True problems indeed, but all of these things were normal. Imagine if you were different. No family support, living in poverty, and knowing you weren’t the same as everyone else, like DIFFERENT DIFFERENT. In the new movie “Moonlight”, Chiron experiences life in a way some of us will never understand. Does this film shine like the moon or flicker like a dying star? Let’s go!

Director Barry Jenkins has created an undeniable masterpiece with his movie “Moonlight”, also executive produced by Brad Pitt. It’s the story of Chiron, a young black, gay man growing up in Miami during the height of the crack era, and how his life is affected by a drug-addicted mother, extreme poverty, and being constantly bullied because he’s different. The film is also presented in three chapters. Chapter one is Chiron’s life as a child. In the opening scene, he’s running from a group of kids who want to beat him up because he’s perceived as being soft. Alex Hibbert plays young Chiron or “little” as he’s called and this kid gives a magnificent performance. You are immediately attached to him. He doesn’t say much but his silence speaks volumes. Mahershala Ali plays Juan, drug dealer who becomes a sort of father-figure to Chiron. He totally breaks the drug dealer stereotype with his performance. For some reason, Juan befriends this kid, but he is torn because he’s sells dope to people and he knows it’s wrong. It really hits home for him as he soon learns that Chiron’s mom, played by Naomi Harris, is one of his best customers. Harris as Paula is outstanding, y’all. I don’t know how many of you have been affected by the 80’s crack epidemic, but just seeing her performance is heartbreaking and surreal. She is in essence a prisoner of drugs, and Chiron tries his best to deal with all this dysfunction as best he can. Janelle Monae plays Theresa, Juan’s girlfriend and surrogate mother to Chiron. She absolutely shines in this movie. This woman can act! She’s there for him when Paula can’t be for whatever reason.

Chapter two explores Chron’s life as a teenager, those vulnerable, impressionable years. Ashton Sanders plays Chiron as a teen. This is the most captivating moment of the film. We all know how it is being a teenager, right? Well, add to the fact that you’re a gay, black male in a school full of other black males trying to prove themselves with hyper masculinity and stories of sexual conquests and you know you don’t fit in. Bullying is constant for Chiron, and although he has a friendship with his childhood buddy Kevin, played by Jharrel Jerome (who gives a stellar performance), even that is tested in a high school setting. Chapter three deals with Chiron, now called “Black” as a young adult. He is totally different than what we’ve seen previously and you will be shocked. Trevante Rhodes plays the older Chiron and let me tell you, this dude does his thang! Most of this movie has limited dialogue, and that is what sets this apart from anything you’ve ever seen. The nonverbal cues and awkward silence captures your attention like that look your mom or dad gives you when you’re doing something wrong. The older Kevin, played by Andre Holland, is fantastic with his expressions and knowing when to give the audience more and hold back in terms of performance. There are scenes in this movie that are emotional but real. I wish I could give every last one of you $15.00 to see this joint. Is it unequivocally the best movie of 2016.

Having lived in Atlanta for almost 20 years, I’ve made a lot of friends, including gay friends. I know them as adults but never really had any gay friends growing up. This film gives me insight on the struggles they had to endure. “Moonlight” is a powerful movie that will capture your heart and open your eyes. Regardless of your views, you will be moved by this piece of work. There is no movie out there better than this…not one, and that’s even after watching “Kicks”. Hands down, this is the best coming-of-age film I’ve seen. “Sixteen Candles” doesn’t hold a candle to this. I’m giving “Moonlight” a Co-sign CLASSIC! This has to win an Oscar for “Best Picture”. It’s in limited release so check your local listings to see if it’s playing in your area. Our views many be different, but we all bleed the same color. Let’s try to love one another. We’re stronger together.

“Moonlight” is in theaters now. Watch the trailer below.