Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
We are rarely the same people as children that we are as teenagers or adults. Outside forces like time, family, and even social status shape our world views and mold our characters. In writer/director Barry Jenkin’s brilliant new Film, Moonlight, we witness how seemingly small actions and insights change one boy’s life at childhood, adolescence, and finally adulthood.
When Juan (Mahershala Ali) first happens upon 9-year-old Little (Alex R. Hibbert), he has just escaped bullies who chased him into an abandoned apartment. The silent Little is reticent to share his name let alone the truth about his crackhead mother Paula (Naomie Harris). In this world where everyone is bigger than he is, Little’s only friend is Kevin (Jaden Piner).
At age 16 Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) is still Chiron’s (Ashton Sanders) only friend. Efforts to push aside his childhood nickname are met with derision as his sexuality is challenged daily by the same bullies he once ran from. With his mentor Juan dead, Chiron has no one to guide him when the pressures of life finally come to a head.
During the Final Act we meet a very different man. Having faced tough consequences from his actions as a teenager, Black (Trevante Rhodes) is now a drug dealer in Atlanta, Georgia. Out of the blue Kevin (André Holland) reaches out to him and the two attempt to bridge the distance that time and life experiences have wedged between them.
The true brilliance of Moonlight is its casting. Each actor brings something new to the character while still maintaining the same heart. Black is still as uncomfortable with words as Little was and as wary of betrayal as Chiron. Yet despite the similarities, Rhodes adds new nuances to the role making it his own.
Based on the play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight is a painfully beautiful modern tragedy. A frontrunner to win the TIFF ’16 Platform competition, no one will leave the theatre unmoved by this Film.
Moonlight screens at TIFF:
Saturday, September 10, 2016 8:30 p.m. Winter Garden
Sunday, September 11, 2016 9:00 a.m. TBLB1
Saturday, September 17, 2016 3:15 p.m. TBLB1