Once a year, or more rarely, comes a film which just blows me away - and this is one of them.
Being nominated for a mere four BAFTAs was measly recognition enough, but to come away from those awards completely empty-handed was little short of grotesque. I have to hold onto faith that this weekend's Oscars will be more forthcoming in recognising what an exceptional work this is.
A film in three sections, all set in Miami (from where director and screenplay writer Barry Jenkins himself hails), it chronicles the life in three stages of first, a schoolboy (then called 'Little'), then as a late-teenager (named 'Chiron') and finally as thirty-something 'Black'.
Initially struggling against the verbal abuse of schoolkids because he's somehow 'different', his hiding from their taunts results in his being befriended by a drug-dealer with a heart of gold, or at least partly gold, (Maharshala Ali) who takes pity for the boy's isolation and loneliness, but whose presence is resented by the boy's drug-dependent, increasingly neglectful mother (Naomie Harris - in all three sections).
Then the story moves forward to the boy as a young man and his friendship with school-colleague Kevin (Jharrel Jerome), and his emotional self-realisation - with a particularly upsetting episode where Chiron is picked out to be a victim of assault.
Finally, the action moves ahead by some twenty years with 'Black' now looking in every way the part of a toughie drug-gang member, complete with gold teeth, pumped-up body and gun - and re-discovering former close friend Kevin (now played by Andre Holland).
If the first two parts contain the most physical 'action' it's the final section which has the dramatic and emotional weight.
The acting of all the three players of the central character (successively Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevant Rhodes) is uniformly remarkable. Despite the character's foibles I was drawn into deep sympathy for him at all the stages - quite heartbreakingly, in fact.
Naomie Harris, as the mother who puts who her own wants ahead of her maternal duties, is no less brilliant.
I found the film well-nigh flawless. Perhaps the music choices were not quite of the best? Others might disagree. Anyway, none of them is over-long. Also, I wasn't quite sure if it was the cinema's own projection problem, but there were one or two moments when the visual focus seemed to be fuzzy. I'll give the film the benefit of the doubt and assume it was the cinema's own equipment.
My only slightly nagging fear that the film's interest in the central character might have been flagging just a very little came in the final section, but if it did it was more than redeemed by the very brief concluding scene.
In summation, I thought this an extraordinary film. If I see a finer one in 2017 it will have been a truly exceptional year................8.5.
1 hour ago