Barry Jenkins

7.2 Moonlight (2016)
7.0 Medicine for Melancholy
6.5 If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Barry Jenkins (USA, 1979) debuted with Medicine for Melancholy (2008).

Moonlight (2016) follows the painful psychological transformation of an individual from childhood to adulthood. The first two parts are powerful and austere, but the third one is pretty much a waste of time.

Children chase a child, Chiron, who finds an empty cabin and locks himself inside until the posse leaves. A Cuban drug dealer, Juan, finds him there. Juan is amused by the little child who refuses to speak and takes him home where his sexy girlfriend Teresa gives him food and a bed. The following day Juan takes Chiron home and his mother Paula hardly thanks the stranger for the favor. At school Chiron is always bullied by a gang of children and doesn't react. His only friend is Kevin. Chiron clearly dislikes his mother and is willing to walk a long distance to spend some quality time with Juan and Teresa. One night Juan finds Chiron's mother Paula in a car, doing drugs with her boyfriend. Juan confronts Paula telling her to go home to her son, but Paula in turn confronts Juan who is the one selling her the drugs. Paula is getting out of control and Chiron's life is made miserable by the combination of the gang at school and his addicted mother at home. One day Chiron asks Juan about his job and about his mother: Juan does not lie and tell Chiron that he sells drugs and his mother is one of his customers.
The film fast forwards to Chiron as a teenager. He is still persecuted by the same gang, led by Terrel, and hangs out with Teresa, but Juan is dead. When Chiron comes home, the neurotic and even more addicted Paula takes whatever money Teresa gave him. Kevin is still his only friend. One day, as a melancholy Chiron is sitting on the beach, Kevin kisses him and masturbates Chiron, who enjoys it. Terrel, however, forces Kevin to punch Chiron. Kevin does it, and Chiron does not defend himself. Then Terrel and his buddies brutally attack Chiron who is lying on the floor. Chiron refuses to tell the school's principal who attacked him, but one day he grabs a chair and smashes it onto Terrel's head. The police arrest him and he goes to jail.
The film now fast-forwards to a young man Chiron, who has become a drug dealer in another city after being released from jail. His mother begs him to visit her and eventually he does so. She has cleaned up and misses him, while tearfully admitting that she was a bad mother. Kevin, now a chef, calls him after ten years of silence to apologize for the behavior that caused Chiron's troubles. Chiron doesn't quite know what to say but then drives all the way to Kevin's restaurant. Initially they cannot quite strike a conversation, but then Chiron tells Kevin that he has become a drug dealer, and Kevin tells Chiron that he had a son with one of the high-school girls. Chiron is still a man of few words, but slowly Kevin understands that Chiron has driven all the way for a reason. At Kevin's place Chiron admits that he has never had sex after being touched by Kevin. Kevin hugs him.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) is a faithful adaptation of James Baldwin's novel.

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