Barry Jenkins’ extraordinary drama Moonlight — which is playing in select cities and adding more theaters every weekend — is such an embarrassment of riches in terms of the ensemble acting that it’s difficult to pick an MVP. The story of a Miami boy named Chiron coming to terms with his sexual identity over three different periods in his life, Moonlight features at least no less than 10 astonishingly nuanced supporting performances. Three actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes, all excellent) portray Chrion as a young boy, a teenager, and a grown man.
Naomi Harris, the only actor to appear in all three segments of the film as Chiron’s drug-addicted mother, is deservedly generating the most early Oscar buzz. But audiences will also be moved by the small, miraculous performance of soul and R&B artist Janelle Monáe — in her first movie role — as Teresa, a surrogate-aunt figure in Chiron’s life.
In the exclusive clip above from the movie’s middle third, Teresa has offered the teenage Chiron a place to stay for the night. When Teresa, inquiring about how Chiron is doing, says, “It’s all love and all pride in this house — do you feel me?” you’ll notice this almost invisible wisp of a smile of Chiron’s face. In the context of the greater film, that expression speaks volumes.
Moonlight opens Nov. 4 in 20 more cities, including Austin, Nashville, Phoenix, New Orleans, Boston, Portland, and Seattle.