Moonlight ★★★★★

"I'm me, man. I ain't trying to be nothing else."

Now THIS is the best movie I've seen all year.

I was totally caught off-guard by this film. Didn't know it was going to be so well made and such a powerful coming-of-age story. But - wow. This movie is one of THE best of this particular sub-genre of dramatic film.

The film is heartbreakingly sad at times and fills you with a sense of desperate hope for our main character, Chiron. The writing is so strong and full of powerful character development. It's a tale of struggle and challenge. An inner-city kid trying to figure out his place in the world when it seems like everything is against him. It's true, real-life struggles. And it is indeed harrowing and sad, however, not so much sadness that we lose hope for Chiron. That's to the credit of the writing and the direction. He keeps us right on the edge of both sadness, hope and achievement. It's a delicate balance, masterfully maintained.

This leads me to another WONDERFUL thing about this film: the cinematography is amazing. It's not full of sweeping vistas or anything like that, but it is extremely personal and intimate. The camera following the characters so closely brings us in tight to their emotions. This puts us right in their shoes and allows us a much tighter connection to their struggles. It's a remarkably strong visual choice and pays off with the story being enhanced by our closeness to these characters and their emotions. Some of the shots are so tightly focused on characters that all around them seems to blur or swirl at times. It's like a fish-eyed lens is being used to zero us in on exactly what part of the story that director is interested in us seeing. Fantastic use of this technique.

This movie is tender without being overly sentimental. It is dramatic without slipping into any kind of melodrama. It is sad without slipping into hopelessness. It also contains the BEST depiction of a young man's budding sexuality that I've ever seen on film. It's not exploitative nor is it in any way trying to shock the audience. It is masterful in the way it shows us this young man trying so hard to find love and acceptance as well as intimacy and love.

It's a beautiful story beautifully told.

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