Telluride 43: “Moonlight”

“Moonlight” received a strong response at the Telluride Film Festival. Before a screening, stage director and Telluride regular Peter Sellars effusively praised the film and its treatment of a rare subject.

This film’s writer/director Barry Jenkins had first been to Telluride as part of the student program and returned as a volunteer. Jenkins joked that it was “eight fucking years” since his first film “Medicine for Melancholy”.

Peter Sellars and Barry Jenkins at Telluride

Peter Sellars and Barry Jenkins at Telluride

“Moonlight” is a uniformly well-acted film about Chiron, an African-American boy living in Miami with his crack-addicted mother (Naomie Harris, James Bond’s current Moneypenny).

Chiron, a lonely silent boy (Alex R. Hibbert) is befriended by Juan (Mahershala Ali, “House of Cards”) who becomes a supportive father-figure. Juan’s girlfriend (Janelle Monae) welcomes Chiron into her home whenever he wants to stay in a less stressful environment. Juan’s relationship is complicated as he is a drug dealer for Chiron’s mother.

Andre Holland, Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali at Telluride

Andre Holland, Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali at Telluride

The film is based on a play by Tarell McCraney. Both McCraney and Jenkins grew up in Miami with mothers having a crack problem. Harris is extremely vivid as a woman under the ravages of addiction.

Chiron tries to figure out why he feels different from others. He grows into a bullied teenager (Ashton Sanders) who explores his homosexuality.

Ashton Sanders in "Moonlight"

Ashton Sanders in “Moonlight”

“Moonlight” is compelling and often poignant, written and directed with sensitivity by Barry Jenkins. A reunion between a very different young adult Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) and Kevin (Andre Holland), his sole boyhood friend, is particularly effective.

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