Magazine article Screen International

'Moonlight': Telluride Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Moonlight': Telluride Review

Article excerpt

Dir: Barry Jenkins. US. 2016. 111mins

An indelible portrait of an imperilled life, Moonlight is quietly devastating in its depiction of masculinity, race, poverty and identity. Writer-director Barry Jenkins builds on the promise of his intimate 2008 romantic drama Medicine For Melancholy to examine a young African-American in danger of being dragged down by the destructive forces around him - and how, by embracing his true self, he may discover contentment. Ambitious in scope but precise in its execution, this deceptively small-scale character piece reverberates with compassion and insight.

Strong reviews should propel this A24 release, which is currently slated to open in the US on October 21 towards art-house viewers, though the film's lack of marquee names may limit crossover potential.

Based on a story by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight consists of three segments, all of them focusing on a black man named Chiron. A different actor portrays Chiron in each chapter, observing him as a youngster, in high school and then in his 20s. From the outset, we sense life is difficult for Chiron (Alex Hibbert), growing up a poor, crime-infested section of Miami in the 1980s with a drug-addicted single mother (Naomie Harris).

But there's another pressure on him: the boy is teased at school by bullies who assume he is gay, even though he is unsure of his sexuality. Befriending Kevin (Jaden Piner), a kindly classmate, Chiron starts developing feelings for him, a tension that plays out over the next two sections.

With Medicine For Melancholy, Jenkins used the premise of a simple one-night-stand to examine the alienation felt by his two African-American characters in a largely white society. He pulls offa similar feat with Moonlight, except on a much bolder canvas. Here, he's looking at how people change (either positively or negatively) in response to external stimuli, and he is especially interested in how someone like Chiron, who doesn't fit in, can lose his way due to cultural pressures. …

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