A24 is without a doubt one of the most creatively exciting players in Hollywood today. They’ve made it their mission to champion less marketable films such as “Swiss Army Man,” “The Lobster” and “American Honey,” just to name a few from this year alone, opening up a whole new avenue for projects that don’t conform to the traditional studio system. It’s hard to imagine a movie like “Moonlight” developing into the festival sensation (and potential Oscar contender) that it’s become without the studio’s support, even if it might be slightly overrated. Adapted from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” writer/director Barry Jenkins’ sophomore effort is a powerful but flawed rumination on identity that chronicles the life of a young, gay black man across three different time periods as he struggles to find his place in the world.
The film opens in the late ‘90s as a soft-spoken boy named Chiron (Alex Hibbert) is chased by a group of bigger kids through his poor, crime-ridden neighborhood in Miami. Chiron comes from a broken home with no father figure and an abusive, crack addict mother (Naomie Harris), so when local drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali) takes a sudden interest in the runaway, Chiron immediately looks up to him as a mentor, despite Juan’s involvement in his mother’s drug habit. Several years later, Chiron (now played by Ashton Sanders) has grown into a lanky, introverted high school student who’s become the target of bullying as he tries to come to terms with his sexuality. Chiron finds some solace in his casual friendship with Kevin (Jharrel Jerome), but after a sexual encounter between them leads to a startling act of violence, Chiron’s life is changed forever. In the movie’s final chapter, a completely transformed Chiron – now a muscular, drug-dealing adult (Trevante Rhodes) who hides behind a thuggish facade – must confront his past when he’s reunited with an older, wiser Kevin (played by André Holland) at a Miami diner.