It looks like A24 is on a roll. It might have some misfires—doesn’t every production company? But, with movies such as Ex Machina, The End of the Tour, Room, The Witch, The Lobster, and even Swiss Army Man, they have made some of the most unique films in recent memory. Featuring an all-black cast, Moonlight is changing the way we look at art-house cinema for the better. I have never seen anything this powerful all year.
Separated into three acts, we follow Chiron as a kid (Alex Hibbert), as a teenager (Ashton Sanders), and as a young adult (Trevante Rhodes). Living in a rough part of Miami, he is unsure what or where he wants to be in life. He escapes the emotional abuse from her mother Paula (Naomie Harris) and sees a positive influence in a crack dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali). Chiron lives with him and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe). He puts Chiron in the right direction. However, Chiron begins to question his feelings towards his best friend Kevin (Jaden Piner—as a kid, Jharell Jerome—as a teen, and Andre Holland—as an adult).
In his second film, writer/director Barry Jenkins has created an emotional roller-coaster ride about self-discovery. Instead of making each character look like a stereotype, he makes them feel natural to the point where the audience relates to the situations they are in. For instance, Chiron is a troubled little boy getting bullied at school as well as at home. Chiron admits he never had a father, and Juan walks into his life and becomes his father figure. “At some point, you got to decide for yourself who you’re going to be,” he says to Chiron.
When Chiron lives with him, he asks Juan what a faggot is—which is a word he would hear in the future. While Moonlight has some great dialogue, the characters’ expressions say a lot. There is something so touching behind the rough Miami setting that it moved me to tears. I had never wished for a better ending to one of the best films of 2016.