When a movie is so hyped and still falls short, one can talk about its good qualities or nitpick its failings. In the case of “Moonlight”, it’s a bit of both, but at least I can begin on a positive note because of the movie’s raw feelings and exceptional performances. In adapting Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play “Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue”, director Barry Jenkins tells the heartbreaking story of Chiron, a young boy who is bullied at school. His mother (a tremendous Naomie Harris) isn’t much of a help, so he finds refuge with an older man who becomes a big brother to him. The film is told in three chapters, and how our young “hero” finally seeks escape from his miserable life is a decisive moment in the story, and the reason the movie isn’t merely melodramatic. What anchors the story is the exceptional performances from Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes, who all play Chiron as a kid, adolescent and adult. The character’s transformation throughout the movie is believable, and the characters he encounters are all intriguing, but I wish we get to see more of them. As much as I enjoyed watching Chiron evolve, I just couldn’t relate to the rest of the characters, and that’s where the movie falls short in my opinion. In any case, writer/director Barry Jenkins has created an emotional journey I’m sure many viewers will respond to.
★★★ Very good