A ‘coming of age’ movie can often be cliched. Person goes through hard times, faces their demons head on and then triumphs. Countless films have used that template to spin a sugar-coated yarn for the masses. Winner of the 2017 Best Picture Oscar, ‘Moonlight’ adheres to some of that formula. Making it rise above others is the bravery in telling its gritty story, pulling no punches in crafting compelling viewing.

Chiron Harris (Alex Hibbert) is a young boy living with his drug addicted mother Paula (Naomi Harris). Residing in Miami, Chiron finds a strange father figure in local drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali). Pushing through a seemingly hopeless existence, Chiron’s best friend Kevin (Jaden Piner) also helps in making Chiron’s life bearable. Over the decades the unexpected becomes the norm as their lives take dramatic turns.

Barry Jenkins directs ‘Moonlight’ with assurance. Exploring masculinity, sexuality and desire within the urban black community showing how some try to conform to expectations in order to survive a certain environment. From an early age Chiron learns the value of keeping his true persona to himself in order to avoid deadly confrontation. Only with a few does he reveal his inner thoughts with his physical presence masking his emotions.

There are many more themes in ‘Moonlight’ - a mark of a well written script. The performances are high quality as several actors play the lead characters through the years. The cinematography highlights their situations with ease with silent movement just as powerful as dialogue. ‘Moonlight’ is strangely romantic in some ways with emotional connections more important than physical ones.

It’s easy seeing why ‘Moonlight’ won multiple awards as it provides a consistently powerful experience. The themes are ones most can relate to as the gripping narrative commands attention until the end. ‘Moonlight’ is a solid ‘coming of age’ story where the awards it has received make it a rare example of a film worth the awards accolades.

Rating out of 10: 9


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