Indie cinema has been the powerhouse in recent years when it comes to the most daring and gripping cinema if you ask me. The sheer volume of newcomers to the world of directing and writing have proven to be worth our while when the sequels and remakes end up being just too much. Well, something that is just right comes from the mind and eye rookie writer/director Barry Jenkins in his debut film Moonlight which may go down as one of the most powerful films of the year.
Set in Liberty City Florida, a young African-American boy embarks on an unimaginable journey that sets in motions three portions of his life has he grows up with an abusive parent, bullies, and soul shattering violence. Jenkins illustrates the taboos of a culture within our country that is rarely seen or discussed. The tender love and care of Jenkins direction and writing set up a coming of age film that mirrors as a coming out party for a type of character we rarely see. His progressive story works because he let’s we the audience determine what is going on exactly how it’s shown. There are no layers we need to peel back to hone in on the central themes of the story nor does it degrade it’s audience as well get engulfed in these character’s lives.
Intimate and emotional, the all around cast give off the truest of feelings to their characters in a way that makes it feel more like a documentary than it does a feature length movie. We are taken into a different realm of the gangster or the drug addict in an impoverished area which becomes a breathe of fresh air as well as a wake up call to the other stories you can tell when trying to paint a vivid picture. The scope is small, the heart is huge, and they only balance out as the three part story goes along to chronicle the life and times of our main character Chiron. Give it to Jenkins and his casting crew for finding such similar actors for each age group that the characters become because not once does it seem like any of the actors are in the wrong spots.
To just describe the basics of Moonlight is unfair and almost misleading. The film touches on so much more than the hardships of poverty or being gay and black in a setting that wants nothing to do with gay people in a world of over-masculinity. It’s a story about people that flood each other with life lessons, experiences, and near regrets, but not once will it ever be less personal than the previous portion. It’s a film that teaches you the joys of swimming and staying afloat during times that may feel like they are only trying to drown you. There aren’t too many films such as this one and it shows from the storytelling to the material it’s set around. Jenkins provides us with one of 2016’s best films and possibly a film that we will look at as something ahead of it’s time.