One of the most quietly impressive entries in this year's awards season is the engrossing and beautiful Moonlight, one poised to do spectacularly at both this Sunday's BAFTAs and the Academy Awards later in February.
Barry Jenkins' enchanting drama has already stunned viewers worldwide prior to its UK release, including our very own Unlimited members who were lucky enough to see it in advance. So what's the movie about? Let us tell you.
It tells a profoundly human story
Devoid of splashy special effects and melodrama, the movie is based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who co-writes the script with Jenkins. Tracing three distinct stages in the life of a young black man called Chiron in Florida in the 1990s, the movie is firmly grounded in a recognisable reality and deals with themes of identity and sexuality in a relatable manner that speaks to a global audience.
Barry Jenkins' direction is stunning
With its discreet soundtrack and luminous, blue-tinted cinematography the movie is a feast for the senses, as well the emotions. As we witness central character Chiron's life unfold, his existence is rendered in a dreamy, visually arresting state that sticks with the viewer.
Naomie Harris is outstanding
The British actress has delivered memorable performances before in the likes of Danny Boyle horror 28 Days Later and as Moneypenny James Bond blockbuster SPECTRE, but this is surely her greatest role to date. Naomie's harrowing, emotionally bruising turn as Chiron's troubled, drug-addicted mother is the deserving recipient of both BAFTA and Oscar nominations, and demands to be seen on the big screen.
Mahershala Ali deserves his Oscar nomination
We're used to the somewhat glib depiction of gang members in movies as gun-running, violent and dangerous individuals. But Jenkins and Ali turn this stereotype on its head with the actor's unexpectedly compassionate performance as Juan, a man who becomes something of a father figure to the young Chiron when he's bullied at school.
It's proof that you don't need shouting and over-acting to get recognition from cinema's most prestigious awards body. Ali also shares great chemistry with Hidden Figures star Janelle Monae as Juan's girlfriend Teresa.
You won't forget the three actors playing Chiron himself
As a multi-generational story the film's impact largely rests on the hugely talented actors embodying Chiron. The film begins with his youngest incarnation, aka 'Little', played by screen newcomer Alex R. Hibbert whose sense of vulnerability and inner determination is captivating.
We then jump ahead to the teenage Chiron played by Straight Outta Compton actor Ashton Sanders, who conveys a burgeoning sense of anger in the character, before we end with Trevante Rhodes playing the older character, now known as 'Black'.
Not only do these guys make up the striking poster for the movie: they also help secure it as one of the most powerful and affecting dramas in years.