<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Barry Jenkins. Starring Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Andre Holland, Jharrel Jerome
Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes
A coming-of-age story that isn’t new but has been depicted with a sensitivity and subtlety that makes it memorable.
Little Chiron is alone in the world. His mother Paula (Naomie Harris) is a drug addict but a drug dealer (Mahershala Ali) and his wife (Janelle Monae) take Chiron in and become foster parents of sorts for him. The film is a tale of his struggle with his mother’s addiction, his confusion over his sexuality and the simple fact of growing up being stigmatised.
There’s not much else to the story. It’s actually the pace, the moods, the thoughts, the moments of silence, the expressions and little things that piece together to give you an idea of the poignancy of this boys’ life and inner conflict.
All the actors who played Chiron through different stages of his life have depicted wonderfully, without a need for words, his transformation from a shy and subjugated kid to a strong young man who still isn’t sure of who he is but must put on the façade of being a macho man in a world that is different from the regular white middle class family life in America. Which is why this story is different.
At points Moonlight is a bit slow but the pauses are full of meaning. And the almost abrupt nature of the end makes you feel like you’ve just watched a short film. It’s interesting as it leaves you to ponder on the future of Chiron and so many other men like him who grapple with their identity in a world that expects them to conform to a particular stereotype. Thankfully there are people who help him be who he is.
PS: There are apparently two scenes that have been cut by the Indian Censor Board.