Best suited for those who found brilliance in Beasts of the Southern Wild, here comes a hackneyed tale of a young black man’s passage from childhood to maturity in a tough Miami neighborhood. Bullying, poverty, closeted sexuality, drug abuse, and racial strife combine to form an overworked agenda of cultural woes that’s more concerned with rubber-stamping issues than telling an original story. Suffocating close-ups, rocking-chair camerawork, and a few unnecessary 360-degree pans lifted from the Christopher Nolan playbook do little to elevate the visual storytelling, while the script — based on the life of playwright Tarell McCraney — is content to churn out one cliché after another. The three actors who share the lead are all first-rate, while Mahershala Ali actually manages to breathe new life into the character of a good-natured drug dealer. That’s more than can be said of Naomie Harris’s standard-issue hysterical crack mom. Here’s just what liberal-minded, visually challenged Academy voters need to make up for last year’s lily-white ceremony. I predict Oscars all around. Written and directed by Barry Jenkins.
Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes