Friday, October 28, 2016

Moonlight Review - 3½ Stars

"Moonlight" presents three scenes in the life of a poor kid, trying to find his way in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood. In Act One, we meet him at age nine, essentially shut down, rarely speaking. Living with an addicted single mother, Chiron faces crime, poverty and bullying at school. He finds help in an unusual mentor... the neighborhood drug dealer. A key scene features Mahershala Ali as the dealer, teaching young Alex Hibbert as Chiron to swim. The first scenes of "Moonlight" aren't easy to watch, especially considering the shut down, non-speaking nature of the character. The middle act finds Chiron in high school, still bullied but finding peace in a friendship with the character 'Kevin" that includes deeper-than-expected feelings and a coming-of-age love scene. "Moonlight" explodes in the middle scenes with betrayal and violence. The final act finds Chiron a changed grown man, relocated to Atlanta working the corners, much in the manner of his childhood drug dealer mentor. A sentimental visit to his mother and a return visit to Miami to reconnect with his friend "Kevin" take "Moonlight" to a breathtaking finale. "Moonlight" abounds with wonderful performances, as three different actors play the lead and three others play the best friend. Ashton Sanders as the teenage Chiron, and Trevante Rhodes as the adult Chiron make a deep impact, as does Andra Holland as Chiron's grown-up best friend Kevin. I can't call "Moonlight" easy to watch; but it's also hard to forget. Does it deliver what it promises? A story about emotion, told artistically. Is it entertaining? Surprising window on a world, we need to see. Is it worth the price of admission? One of the year's remarkable achievements.