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Stars: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, Janelle Monáe, André Holland

Director: Barry Jenkins

Another Oscar hopeful, and another disappointment. This is an OK if rather ordinary (and darkly photographed) examination of three stages in the life of Chiron, an African-American youngster living by the sea in Florida. His life, however, is far from idyllic.

A loner of few words, he's saddled with a crackhead mom (British actress Harris, totally convincing in the part) and unmercifully bullied at school. Hiding from the bullies in a deserted building, he's befriended by a local drugs dealer (Ali), who takes him under his wing and teaches him how to swim.

Otherwise, Stage Two finds that little has changed in the now-teenage Chiron's plight at school, which results in an outburst of violence, but not before he has had his first gay experience, with his childhood buddy Kevin. (The drug dealer has disappeared, presumably off to prison).

The final part of the film sees Kevin re-connect with Chiron, the one now a short-order cook, the other, now 23, muscular but celibate, and on the wrong side of the law.

I didn't buy the seven years' celibacy, but, at any rate, after Chiron drives miles to effect a reunion, the last two reels of the film consist of one of most protracted foreplays on record.

Full of lingering close-ups, the film will be an arthouse success destined for some kind of reward come Oscar time. In truth, though, it was nothing special for this critic, whose eyelids drooped more than once.

David Quinlan

USA 2016. UK Distributor: Altitude. Colour by Color Collective.
111 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 14 Feb 2017