Moonlight ★★★★★

Moonlight is an experience that only comes along every once in a while. We don't often get stories that explore homosexuality in the black community (that isn't played for a joke or an inconsequential side character), and we almost never get films that explore homosexuality in the hyper-masculine urban community (be it black, Latino, or any other). Frankly, this should also be viewed as a condemnation of bullying. It's an emotionally draining, completely empathetic tour through a world seldom seen in cinema, or generally spoken of at all. Barry Jenkins has crafted something in a league of its own, and I can assuredly say that it lives up to the much deserved hype.

The performances are remarkable, from Mahershala Ali's Juan (see him in Kicks, as a similar character), to Naomie Harris's Paula. Both of them, along with Janelle Monae, create a biological and surrogate parent dynamic unlike anything I've seen. It isn't often that you root for a young person to spend more time with a drug dealer than his own parent, but that's a testament to the tenderness injected into Ali's layered character. Chiron is played with nuance by the trio of Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes. I've heard complaints about Little's quietness, but abuse can take so many forms, and internalizing pain is one of the most common. The three actors who play Kevin are great as well, but Andre Holland stands out as the final dose of heart that gives this story an optimistic future.

Nicholas Britell's score is haunting, and James Laxton's understated cinematography perfectly drew me in. Throughout the film I had very similar feelings to those I had while watching Short Term 12. It's a small slice of life gem that I cannot stress the importance of enough.

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