A boy comes of age in achingly pow­er­fulMoon­light

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in New York

Moonlight is as wist­ful a film as its ti­tle might sug­gest. Di­rec­tor Barry Jenk­ins, in only his sec­ond fea­ture, has cre­ated a sin­gu­larly pow­er­ful and mas­ter­fully re­strained work of art about a young­man’s com­ing of age in South Florida told in three dif­fer­ent stages — child, teenager and young adult.

This is no Boy­hood, how­ever. There are three ac­tors por­tray­ing Ch­i­ron, and al­though it takes a bit of imag­i­na­tion to ac­cept the three as the same per­son, Moonlight feels some­how even more poignant than that 12-year ex­per­i­ment. That’s no small feat, and per­haps that’s be­cause of the power of the sub­ject and its ex­plo­ration of the gay­ness of an African-Amer­i­can man.

But Jenk­ins has also ac­com­plished some­thing truly ex­tra­or­di­nary in that Moonlight feels as real and raw and vague and spe­cific as a mem­ory. That this all co­a­lesces into a co­her­ent and im­pact­ful story is a tes­ta­ment to his sin­gu­lar tal­ent.

Jenk­ins adapted Moonlight from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The sub­ject, Ch­i­ron, played first by the promis­ing new­comer Alex Hib­bert, is in­tro­duced as a wisp of a boy in a rough, sunny neigh­bor­hood. He’s be­ing chased by some chil­dren when he finds refuge in a blighted apart­ment. An adult on the streets no­tices the scene and comes to Ch­i­ron’s aid, coax­ing him out of hid­ing and back into the world.

Some­thing is not right with this quiet lit­tle boy and this man, Juan, and his girl­friend Teresa are gen­er­ous and well off enough to help. We soon find out that Ch­i­ron is in­deed from an un­sta­ble home. His mother, Paula is fiercely pro­tec­tive of her lit­tle boy when she’s alert, but she’s also a full­blown ad­dict.

Moonlight is not pro­pelled by story so much as at­mos­phere— a me­lan­choly blend of mu­sic, care­ful im­agery and col­ors and re­peat­ing mo­tifs that will linger in your mind long after the cred­its roll.

It’s one of the most ex­cit­ing char­ac­ter stud­ies in re­cent mem­ory and one that will en­dure beyond the pol­i­tics and im­per­ma­nence of awards sea­son.

Hope­fully it doesn’t take Jenk­ins an­other eight years to make a film. But we can take com­fort inthe very strong like­li­hood that, even if it does, it will be well worth the wait.

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