2016 TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL: For director Barry Jenkins, Telluride is a bit of a homecoming. As the Master of Ceremonies at the Werner Herzog Theatre for the past few years, it is quite a story for Jenkins to have his film be such a big hit at the festival.
“Moonlight,” based on MacArthur Award winner Tarell McCraney‘s play, tells the deeply felt love story of a black, gay male. It is also a coming-of-age story, as the films starts off with Chiron as a young, confused boy. Chiron lives in a crack-riddled, urban Miami neighborhood, with a drug dealer (Mahershala Ali) as a father figure and a verbally abusive drug addict for a mother (Naomie Harris, in a harrowing and Oscar-worthy performance).
As he searches to better understand who he truly is, we watch tight-lipped Chiron through three crucial phases in his life: youth (Alex R. Hibbert), adolescence (Ashton Sanders) and early adulthood (Trevante Rhodes – who might show up on my year-end Breakthrough Performances piece). His quiet intensity spills into the delicate and affecting story – a character reminiscent of Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) in “Brokeback Mountain.”
“Moonlight” is a wholly felt and tender experience that is both heart-wrenchingly painful and utterly refreshing. It is exceptional filmmaking, with remarkably real characters that translate into extraordinary performances from the entire talented cast.