Written by Barry Jenkins. Based on Tarell A. McCraney’s play
Directed by Barry Jenkins
It felt like looking for love and love can’t be found… what a sadness envelopes this poetic and beautiful film.
The first film I’ve seen about the development of romantic love between two black men – from school age to adulthood. This is part coming of age story in a general sense and part very specifically; a coming of age story about a black gay boy/man whose circumstances are so difficult, survival with any sexuality at all is a triumph. It is raw and urgent. Especially for “straight” black folks who have a difficult relationship with homosexuality for many reasons.
This story takes place in South Florida. Poverty is all you see.
“Chiron/Black” knows he’s different from early on and doesn’t have a place to speak this or to begin to understand what is happening with him… he is very alone in the world as his mother is a drug addict.
Chiron/Black ends up in prison for a bit, after slamming a chair over the head of the school’s major bully. In juvenile, he buffs up and comes out a stud, bulging biceps and a mouth full of grill… He is sensitive, kind but has affected a “don’t mess with me” presence.. But this man is without love and desperate for it.
This film makes me think about US – black folks – and our love/hate relationship with each other and with ourselves. We have work to do. We have such work to do on us.. just us. And, if I may add, there’s something in the American psyche that smacks of self-hatred, self-loathing. It ain’t just black folks… we live in a culture that can press the heart out of people, throw them aside like a hit and run driver who keeps on going. WE ALL HAVE WORK TO DO to reclaim our souls, our civility.
The cast is terrific:
The actors playing “Black/Chiron” from little boy to young man are so good. And the older actor playing “Chiron” , Trevante Rhodes, has managed to be roiling inside but quiet, calm, needing and needy but strong in spite of that need. Lack of love stunts our growth. He’s been forced to find a way on his own..
Mahershalal Ali – excellent.. The drug dealer-father figure..
Janelle Monae is terrific as Juan’s (drug-dealer/father figure) lady– who befriends Black/Chiron and treats him with decency and concern- the closest thing to a mother he’s ever had.
Naomie Harris plays Chiron’s mom and is terrific, English, graduate of Cambridge University, trained at the Old Vic, plays the drug-addled mother who is gross, dreadful and abusive. She eventually gets into a facility for treatment and tries to make her peace with her son. He forgives. He loves.