Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, this film has received rave reviews (98% Fresh critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes) and numerous “Best Picture” awards. My close friend Bruce saw it about a month ago and told me he didn’t like it much. He is one of the most intelligent and perceptive people I know, and, since we agree on movies about 90% of the time, I didn’t bother to see it. After all the rave reviews came out, however, I felt an obligation to my blog subscribers to watch it, since it will undoubtedly get many Academy Award nominations, including “Best Picture,” so I took one for the team.
The movie has three sections, each one about a phase of the main character (Chiron)’s life, each portrayed by a different actor. The first, “Little” (Alex Hibbert) is about Chiron’s awful childhood. His mother, Paula (Naomie Harris) is a junkie and his father is absent. While hiding from some bullies, “Little” is found by Juan (Mahershala Ali), who tries to help him. Ironically, however, Juan is also Paula’s drug dealer. The middle section, “Chiron,” was my favorite. Chiron (Ashton Sanders) is now a teenager, but he is being viciously bullied and is struggling with his sexual identity, among other issues. Ashton Sanders does a fantastic job and deserves an acting nomination. The final third, “Black” (Trevante Rhodes) is about Chiron’s life as an adult.
Chiron’s life is beyond bleak, and most scenes, some of which are excellent, were difficult for me to watch. Much of Chiron’s emotional pain is conveyed non-verbally, but we really don’t get much insight into his inner life. Regretfully, I agree with Bruce’s assessment. I think that perhaps the rave reviews are, to some degree, politically motivated to compensate for the lack of “diversity” in the Academy Awards for prior years. Although about 40 minutes of this film is excellent, “Moonlight” was still way too “dark” for me!