Moonlight is a transitioning story about a gay person African-American kid living in Florida. That essential plot depiction, notwithstanding, does little to pass on the sharp verse of Barry Jenkins’ film, whose story is separated between three phases in the life of its hero, Chiron (otherwise known as “Nearly nothing” as an immature, and “Dark” as a grown-up). From its bewildering opening shot on a road corner hovering around a street pharmacist (Mahershala Ali) who’ll come to be youthful Chiron’s surrogate father figure—since his mom (Naomie Harris) is an addict—this reminiscent dramatization catches a staggering feeling of both place and character. As Chiron grows up, getting a charge out of short lived snapshots of happiness in the midst of routine mishandle and disregard, Jenkins outlines prickly individual and interpersonal elements in which both salvation and condemnation appear to originate from the same (or, at any rate, comparative) source. Delicate, unobtrusive, serious and complex, it’s a triumph of both expressive heading and—cordiality of Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes as Chiron, and also André Holland and Janelle Monáe—nuanced, shocking execution.

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