Moonlight charts three separate periods (childhood, adolescence, and adulthood) in the life of a quiet, put-upon individual named Chiron, with the movie detailing the character’s efforts at overcoming, among other things, a crack-addicted mother, several abusive bullies, and questions about his own sexuality. It’s clear immediately that writer/director Barry Jenkins is in absolutely no rush to tell this low-key, relatively uneventful story, as Moonlight, which runs an overlong 110 minutes, progresses at an often excessively deliberate pace that does, for the most part, prevent the viewer from genuinely connecting to the material. And although the movie never becomes the searing, electrifying drama one might’ve anticipated, Moonlight benefits substantially from a raft of positive attributes that, combined, pave the way for an always interesting and sporadically heartbreaking narrative. The film’s most obvious asset, however, is its central character; portrayed by Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes, Chiron slowly-but-surely becomes a seriously striking figure that one can’t help but root for and sympathize with. (One can’t, as such, wish that something good would happen to him, as Jenkins subjects Chiron to one calamity after another; the constant barrage of misfortune is, ultimately, exhausting.) The affecting finale, at least, ensures that Moonlight ends on a memorable and decidedly emotional note, which finally does confirm its place as an intriguing yet erratically-paced character study.

**1/2 out of ****

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