Movie Review: Moonlight

“Moonlight” is my pick for Best Film of 2016.

Now is a good time to see “Moonlight.” In this hateful political climate our nation is experiencing, we need more personal stories like the one told by filmmaker Barry Jenkins.

“Moonlight” invites you to cut through the hate by empathizing with its central character, a black child/man/adult struggling with his sexuality. Everyone struggles with life, of course, but this is a story of conflict that invites the viewer to understand and share the feelings of someone out of the mainstream.

The Academy Award-winning film tells the story of Chiron in three parts with three different actors playing the character.

Chiron, the child, is cruelly abused by his drug-addicted mother (Naomie Harris). Chiron (Alex Hibbert) seeks shelter both literally and figuratively from Juan (Mahershala Ali), a Cuban drug dealer. Juan and his girlfriend take a sincere interest in Chiron and attempt to help him cope with his emotional struggle.

Chiron, the teenager, is the centerpiece of part 2. The situation at home is only getting worse and Chiron (Ashton Sanders) grapples with his feelings for best friend, Kevin (Jharrel Jerome).

Chiron, the adult, is the focal point of part 3. Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) now struggles with his less-than-savory career choice. And, it’s obvious the emotional scars of his childhood are impacting his emotional well-being as he returns to his hometown of Miami.

“Moonlight” features one of the best ensembles, black or white, of 2016. But, the real standouts are Ali as Juan, Chiron’s mentor, and Harris as Chiron’s abusive mother. Jenkins directs the compartmentalized screenplay in such a way that you have to stay on your toes as a viewer. The mix of characters is complex, but very rewarding if you remain attentive.

“Moonlight” has a lot to say about the society we live in today. The fact that it’s one of the least-seen Best Picture winners is a bit sad. I’m proud to say it was my pick for best film of 2016. And, it was the consensus best film pick of the two film critics’ groups of which I am a member. Grade: A

Mahershala Ali in his Oscar-winning role as Juan in “Moonlight.”