Moonlight ★★★★★

This film connects on so many levels. It gives insight to people devoid of the black experience and it offers a familiarity to black people that I'm sure most critics gloss over. This film feels very real. It conveys that sense of real with such sincerity that people who have never experienced anything like what is conveyed in the film know that it is truth.

What makes this film so brilliant is that it has no agenda, nothing to pander to, it does not sensationalize anything and it does not water anything down either. This is not a black story, it is a story of a person like any other in great cinema. The characters are multi dimensional, none feeling there to drive the plot or fake. From the various actors playing Chiron to the drug dealer on the block waiting for a sale, all characters feel as if they are in a documentary rather than a narrative.

It's a challenge being black in America, more so than some realize, but to be seen as weak or gay in the black community exponentially increases that challenge. You are a person of without a home. This is a major problem in the black community, one that is amplified by the idea of the black man as being super human, violent and aggressive. It is a double edged sword as to show weakness in the streets is to be persecuted and to show strength is to also be persecuted, albeit by different groups.

This is the central theme at the heart of this film, the search for love. Love can be hard to find normally, but people find it in family and friends. Chiron is raised by a single mother, so already the chance of having familial love is cut in half, which puts a strain on the one parent. Chiron finds some semblance of love in Juan, the incredible Mahershala Ali. Ali's performance, as usual, is amazing and it touches on another aspect of life in the streets; affection, even from those whom are deeply flawed, is gobbled up because of scarcity. Without Juan and his girlfriend Teresa, played wonderfully by Janelle Monae, I doubt Chiron's story would have lasted past the first act.

Naomie Harris' performance as Chiron's mother is astounding, especially considering she only had 3 days on set to film scenes with all 3 actors that play Chiron. You feel her struggle to raise Little, you weep for her transgressions while raising Chiron, and you are conflicted yet empathetic to the culmination of her arc with Black. Speaking of those 3, I don't think there has ever been a depiction of a character played by 3 different actors that was as cohesive, subdued, and rich as in this film. It's like Boyhood, but more effective and it didn't take 20 years. Alex R. Hibbert as Little, is fantastic, and not just fantastic for a child actor, genuinely fantastic. Ashton Sanders as Chiron gives the most genuine performance as he had the adolescent years to work with. Finally, Trevante Rhodes as adult Chiron, called Black, conveys more emotion in 5 minutes with only facial expressions and very little dialogue than most actors do with an entire film. His performance is subtle, enthralling, heartbreaking and joyous all at once. What he and director Barry Jenkins pulled off in this film is a tour de force.

Everyone should go see this film, it is truly the best of 2016, which says a lot because La La Land is wonderful. This film will put you in the shoes of someone and give you a perspective that few films can deliver. This can be a tough watch, for anyone, maybe not as tough as 12 years a slave, but it is essential viewing.