It is difficult to effectively display certain inner conflicts one may experience during the coming of age, but 'Moonlight' stunningly portrays three chapters in the life of a young, black boy and his struggle whilst growing up gay. Starting off with Little (Alex Hibbert); a boy who is taken under the wing of local drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), followed by him as a teen, referred to as Chiron (Ashton Sanders), slowly uncovering and accepting his sexuality, then finally as a man (Trevante Rhodes), living his life begrudgingly with the burden of his troubled past. All this is then juxtaposed by a very difficult relationship with his mother, Paula, (Naomie Harris), falling in love with his best friend, and getting bullied consistently throughout school. The consequences of each prospect are dealt with astonishingly, somehow illustrating issues that have deep and dark implications with serenity and consideration. It simply is wonderful to watch.
Some have referred to this feature as "mundane". However, director Barry Jenkins displays the toughness of this boy's life with appropriate genuineness. Amongst it all, Jenkins' unquestionable artistic talent demonstrates a troubled soul who cannot grasp exactly what it is that makes him different with seamless realism. He does this through the subtle ocean imagery every time Chiron encounters something challenging, which ties the narrative together ingeniously. This, combined with an excellent screenplay by Jenkins, inspired by Tarell Alvin McCraney's play, 'In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue', results in a naturally flowing story that makes 'Moonlight' immensely powerful.
All three actors portray the main character with equal conviction, immersion and entrancing absorption; it certainly feels like an overarching story following one character, a hard task to truly pull off unless, like Richard Linklater's 'Boyhood', you use the same actor over an extended period. Ali's supporting role as the complicated, good-willed drug dealer, Juan, is indeed praiseworthy but it is Harris' performance that is most awe-inspiring. Certainly Oscar worthy, her marvellous display as Chiron's damaged, drug addicted mother is one that particularly stands out, despite the movie in itself being an incredible cinematic experience altogether. The extra layer of Juan being Paula's supplier adds further gravity to the situation, which is, to put it frankly, just one of many factors in the movie that pull delicately at your heartstrings. Jenkins successfully sustains the emotional attachment throughout, and has created an absolute serene picture; it is difficult to resist a rewatch.
Intricately and carefully crafted, 'Moonlight' truly does shine as a masterwork, conveying emotions in their utmost complexity as part of a story where, in reality, 'little' happens (pun intended). Barry Jenkins comes to the forefront as an emerging talent in directing, with the standard set so high, it is now intriguing to anticipate just what his next project, 'A Contract with God' (a three-part directed feature), will be like.