Written By Jacob Chimilar (Letterboxd: Sweetlows)
The story is split into 3 distinct parts about a boy named Chiron. It tackles various themes through each chapter as child, teenager and a young man. It's a film that looks at how a young boy's life is shaped by these pivotal moments and how he decides to adapt and change while remaining himself.
I want to watch this movie again. It is so well crafted and the themes are honest and tough with moments of triumph and heartache. The performances are all so incredible. Every character is given this layered lived in quality that rings true. No one seems like a stereotype, no melodrama, just singular unique humans living their lives. It's not about being black, it's not about being gay, it's about one person and how his life is constantly being bombarded with hate and looking for a support system to keep him afloat.
The direction, use of color and time of day is also very telling. The score is electric and tense, providing an atmosphere that sucks you in like all great scores do. The mornings present the struggles of the every day, harsh bright light putting him in full view of everyone to be seen and judged. A drug dealer character he befriends early on in the film tells him a story about walking around at night and an old lady calling him "Blue" from the color cast by the moonlight. He tells young Chiron that he should be the one to define who he is, not let others tell you. He takes it to heart and in the moonlight we see the real Chiron. The night can be a scary place where bad things happen, but for him, it is a place to escape and be who he wants to be. The dark corners, the street lights are where he can find himself hidden from the harshness of day.
The set up build and builds over the course of two acts culminating in a the teardown in the final act that is in stark contrast to the previous two chapters. It is a genius set up that pays off beautifully by the end. Niaomi Harris gives a stunning performance as Chiron's mother. A messed up human being if there ever was one and Mahershala Ali as a charming drug dealer that takes Chiron under his wing and teaches him things that his family can't. It makes it easy to see why a boy would seek out help in anyone who would be willing to treat him with kindness and respect with the family he has. And the trio of Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes work together to seamlessly create a character we grow to care about and root for.
I've said before I am not one for civil rights films, overtly "black" or "gay" films as I feel they preach too hard for my liking. They feel like the kind of films you have to like or else, but this movie focuses on a boy who becomes a man and the steps that leads him from who he was to who he becomes and how where you grow up can severely influence where you end up in life, how love and compassion can maintain you but hate and division can, not by choice , leave you a suppressed guarded person until love can reignite your flame.