“Moonlight”

After watching the highly anticipated “Moonlight,” this film made me appreciate what I have.

“Moonlight” is told in a three-chapter structure, focusing on Chiron. He’s raised by his drug-addicted mother (Naomie Harris), faces daily confrontations with bullies who think he’s weak, and questions his sexual orientation.

Writer/director Barry Jenkins tells Chiron’s heartbreaking story at different points in his life. “i: Little” follows elementary school Chiron seeking a father figure in drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), who questions his own path after meeting Chiron. “ii: Chiron” follows teenage Juan hitting his breaking point with bullies, his mother, and his deceitful first love. “iii: Black” follows adult criminal Chrion coming to terms with his past and himself.

“Moonlight” is a powerful, beautiful, and emotionally raw character study that takes on familiar themes of dysfunctional family, angst, and growing up. Though familiar, “Moonlight” is its own special film.

Chiron is played by three different actors in each chapter; Alex Hibbert plays kid Chiron (called Little by classmates), Ashton Sanders plays teen Chiron, and Trevante Rhodes plays adult Chiron. Each actor delivers an authentic performance with their own take on the layered character.

Each chapter is named after Chiron’s given name, and they all go for separate themes, differentiating them apart. The main connection is the ocean; Chiron has a key moment in all three segments involving the ocean, showing that is his sanctuary. It’s symbolic without being pretentious.

The supporting cast does magnificent work, particularly Ali and Harris. Ali portrays the thuggish Juan with compassion, while Harris plays the drugged-out Paula with sorrow, making them both complex characters.

After a string of bad action movies, cheap scares, and Lifetime-worthy tales of suicide, it’s refreshing to watch a film that challenged my comfort zone and intellect. “Moonlight” is a gem!

Grade: A