Barry Jenkins' tale follows Little's (Alex Hibbert) journey from a shy kid, to a teenage Chiron (Ashton Sanders) struggling to deal with his sexuality (and his schoolmates hatred of him), to a hardened drug dealer (Trevante Rhodes) given an unexpected chance to find something he lost years ago.
All three of the leads work well, although the fact that we are getting used to a different actor also responding to a different name does take some getting used to during the movie's two big time jumps. And the supporting cast is strengthen by the likes of Naomie Harris as our protagonist's abusive mother, Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monáe as a couple who step in to try and help the boy, and Jharrel Jerome as the teenager responsible for giving Chrion the best and worst moments of his life.
The tale of a marginalized character Jenkins offers is a compelling one. The director makes some interesting choices in what struggles of Chiron he chooses to show on screen and what are merely alluded to. There's likely far more salacious and terrible moments from Chiron's youth which could have been highlighted, but (while still focused on the challenges the young man must endure) Jenkins' film is a hopeful one about striving for and finding a place where you can be yourself and be accepted for who you are. Rated-R given some of its subject matter (alluded to drug use, sex, and one pretty vicious schoolyard fight), the film is still remarkably accessible and will likely strike a chord with audiences of all ages.