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Laramie Movie Scope:

A troubled life, but not lost

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 1, 2016 -- I had to drive a ways (over 130 miles) to see this emotional coming of age film, but it was worth it. Coming of age films have been done to death, but this one makes most of the others look like wimpy weaklings.

This story follows the life of Chiron (played by Alex Hibbert as a child, Ashton Sanders as a juvenile and by Trevante Rhodes as an adult) from childhood to manhood as he makes his way through a very difficult and lonely life.

Raised by a drug addict mother, Paula (played by Naomie Harris of “Skyfall”) Chiron is small, socially awkward, and is constantly bullied by other boys. A drug dealer, Juan (Mahershala Ali of “The Free State of Jones”) finds Chiron hiding in an abandoned building and returns him home after his girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monáe) finally gets the withdrawn boy to talk.

Juan's house becomes a safe haven for Chiron, who is called “Little.” This is a very awkward arrangement, however, because Juan is also supplying Chiron's mother with drugs. Juan can't very well lecture anybody about doing the right thing, but Teresa becomes Chiron's confidant, along with his best friend, Kevin (played as a child by Jaden Piner).

Chiron's troubles continue in high school, where he is bullied because he is homosexual. He is betrayed by his best friend, Kevin (now played by Jharrel Jerome) who beats up Chiron at the insistence of another student, Terrel, (Patrick Decile). Enraged, Chiron avenges himself by attacking Terrel. He is arrested and ends up in the tender arms of the criminal justice system.

In the last act of the story, we see Chiron as an adult, now a drug dealer. He unexpectedly gets a call from his old friend, Kevin (now played by André Holland of “Selma”). The two talk on the phone, catching up with their lives in recent years. Kevin has also been in jail, but has gone straight, working as a cook in a restaurant. He invites Chiron to visit him, but is greatly surprised when Chiron actually shows up.

The two men awkwardly talk about the past and present. As ever, Chiron says very little. Kevin apologizes for his awful treatment of Chiron years ago in high school, but eventually, the conversation gets back to something else that happened back then between Chiron and Kevin. Chiron finally opens up about all the painful things in his life, and his one night of love and acceptance.

The content of this film is almost entirely emotional, building up to the heart-wrenching scene at the end. Early on in the film, there is another heart rending scene where a young Chiron asks Juan and Teresa “Am I a faggot?” The pained look on Juan's face speaks volumes. There is also a very nice scene between Chiron (as an adult) and his mother at a drug treatment center.

The performances in this film are as powerful as the emotions in the story itself. This is a great story about a man who, despite all the suffering he has been through in life, has somehow maintained his dignity and his humanity. He keeps pushing forward and never loses his way. He never gives up. This film rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2016 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)