Review of one of the year’s biggest indie films about the hardships of growing up
By Carter Bagley
This film really seemed to pop out of nowhere. I had no idea what is was until all the sudden I heard a lot of buzz surrounding it in the past month or two about how it’s some peoples favorite movie of the year and that it’s the “best indie film of the year”. So I went in not knowing anything about the plot whatsoever and although the subject matter surprised me, I found the brilliant artistic approach taken by writer/director Barry Jenkins to be the greatest aspect of this film. He tells the story of a boy named Chiron who’s growing up in a very poor neighborhood and constantly being bullied by his peers along with having a drug addicted mom. It follows Chiron through three defining chapters of his life from when he was a young boy to when he was an older teenager to when he’s an adult. Each chapter seems to show him struggling with something personally and having a slight realization. The admirable thing I could say about this film could be someone else’s biggest flaw and to me that’s the genuine feeling to it for it comes across as very realistic and subtle. There’s no big climax or that huge scene that everyone’s going to remember, instead the film makes you feel like you know this kid or have known someone like him. Every character feels very authentic and fleshed out and you can tell they have their own purpose and struggle and aren’t just there to serve the main character. All three actors that portray Chiron at the three stages of his life all give amazing performances especially the kids but the standout of all three was definitely Ashton Sanders who even did a better job than Trevante Rhodes who plays the grown up Chiron. However possibly the film’s most interesting character, Juan, played exceptionally by Mahershala Ali could’ve been fleshed out a little more and I would’ve liked to see more of his character. The main problem I have with this film is that it didn’t impact me the way I wanted it to, every time I really started to feel for Chiron and the characters around him it cut away from it. It could’ve been paced a little better and I just feel like the ending didn’t give you the ending the punch that the story deserved and I walked away feeling like I didn’t learn anything. Nonetheless the story I did get to see was human and realistic and the performances were all fantastic. It’s definitely not my favorite film of the year unlike some people, but it’s a modern tragedy in a sense and worth seeing if you truly enjoy films but I wouldn’t recommend it for the average moviegoer. Still I see a very bright future for writer/director Barry Jenkins and many of the young actors featured in it.