The film that has brought writer, director Barry Jenkins firmly into the spotlight; chronicling the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood, trying to find himself and his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighbourhood in Miami. Nominated for 8 Oscars, 4 Baftas and the winner of 1 Golden Globe and 1 SAG award, starring Mahershala Ali, Alex R. Hibbert, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes and André Holland.
The first impression this film makes is once of intensity, it’s not a film that’s going to give you an easy, pleasant journey that will leave your memory the first step you take out of the cinema, it’s decidedly much more than that. It does not take long at all before Jenkins has your sympathy for Chiron, there’s a quality to the little boy that appears on the screen in front of you that everyone can relate to and Alex R. Hibbert does a great job, he may not have to speak much but there’s a weight to what was being asked of him and it’s impressive he served it well at such a young age. It may surprise people upon watching, given Mahershala Ali’s many nominations for his performance as Juan that it’s actually quite short lived but he does more with the moments he has than some actors throughout a 2 hour feature. Ali delivers a character that’s surprisingly charming and his immediate connection with Chiron is captivating to watch and sets a strong foundation for the film.
As the story moves and you see the defining moments in the life of Chiron, Jenkins doesn’t allow for it to become diluted, his style is extremely focused and deliberate in his delivery of such an intimate, personal story. A style which may not be appreciated by all, the careful and unhurried pace does require some patience on the part of the audience but this is not one to be rushed, it’s a quiet and moving portrayal of one man’s internal struggle. It is however packed full of talent, particularly Trevante Rhodes, portraying the oldest version of Chiron, who gives a fantastic performance that’s overflowing with emotion, making himself one to watch. Then there’s Naomie Harris, this is Harris like you’ve never seen her and won’t forget anytime soon, it’s a harsh character to put on the screen but she does it almost flawlessly.
Barry Jenkins, with the help of cinematographer James Laxton and composer Nicholas Brittel, have made a film that will slowly but fiercely find it’s way into your heart. In front of you is almost a whole life in just under two hours, an internalised struggle captured perfectly, not only asking who you are as a person but if we’re all just headed down a predetermined path or if we can decide who we should be. It’s incredibly meaningful and showcases real talent, it’s not difficult to see why some people may struggle with this one but for those who can see the film for what it is, will not forget it any time soon.