In a brilliant telling of a young man's rough upbringing and struggles with life and love, Barry Jenkins's award winning film is moving and poetic. The movie is separated into three parts starting with a young boy nicknamed Little (Alex R. Hibbert). Little falls under the tutelage of Juan (Mahershala Ali) when he is found in an abandoned crackhouse. Juan brings Little home to his house where he meets Teresa (Janelle Monae). With almost no dialogue, Little conveys the early life of a world-weary young boy who has seen too much too soon. When he does start talking, he asks tough questions of his new mentor.
The movie jumps to high school where Little, now going by his given name Chiron (Ashton Sanders), is tormented by bullies and witnesses the decline of his drug addict mother Paula (Naomie Harris). He struggles with his sexuality but finds affection in his childhood friend Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). Eventually, he stands up to the bullies and winds up arrested for his bravery.
As an adult, he goes by a new nickname of Black (Trevante Rhodes) and has found success in a life of crime like his old role model. He revisits his past first returning to see his mother who is in recovery then to his old friend now a cook (Andre Holland). The film ends on a heartbreaking yet optimistic note for a man that seemed to never have a chance.
The performances are brilliant throughout, especially the young actors. Mahershala Ali already received a nomination for his supporting role and could be a favorite for the Academy Awards. Harris delivers a stellar performance as the mother steadily in decline and demanding the impossible from her son. Monae is having a great year with an appearance in this film plus her strong role in Hidden Figures.
The movie moves swiftly through the story showing a romance that has never been given attention in mainstream entertainment. Moonlight has beautiful imagery and a script that demands the actors show their emotions instead of speaking them. It will face tough competition on its quest to win the best picture award but could pull it ou as the story has such a powerful message.