Mahershala Ali and Alex Hibbert
Seemingly the winner of every award for which it has been nominated, Moonlight moved me differently than anything else I have seen this year. The sophomore feature by director Barry Jenkins—sure to receive his first Oscar nomination—follows a gay black man named Chiron through three periods of his difficult life.
First, young Chiron (Alex Hibbert), nicknamed Little, is bullied by his peers and befriended by a dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend, Teresa (musical artist Janelle Monae), while living with his addict mother (Naomie Harris). In high school, Chiron (Ashton Sanders, who breathes incredible life into the most difficult period of the protagonist’s life) has his first sexual experience, but also faces more violent bullying than before. He grows into a muscular, lonely man now known as Black (Trevante Rhodes, who has the quiet gravity of a prettier 50 Cent), who deals drugs in Atlanta.
The sensitivity with which Jenkins directs his astonishingly powerful cast propels Moonlight above nearly all its 2016 cinematic peers. Sadly, its audience is bound to remain small, but anyone who sees it will be moved to consider the lives of those among us who are ostracized because of their otherness.