Moonlight, Film 4, Wednesday, 9pm

American film director Barry Jenkins and playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney grew up just a few streets from each other in Liberty City, a poor and crime-ridden district of Miami. They didn’t know each other as kids but when Jenkins was given a copy of McCraney’s semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, a coming-of-age tale about growing up gay in that tough and unforgiving black neighbourhood, he found a story that chimed with his own childhood experience. The result is this extraordinary film, which manages to be subtle and experimental while pulling no punches about the hardships of the lives it portrays. Hailed as one of the best 25 films of the 21st century so far by the New York Times, it was nominated for four Oscars at the 2017 Academy Awards, winning the gongs for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting actor for Mahershala Ali, of House Of Cards and True Detective.

Ali features in the first of the film’s three chapters playing Juan, a Liberty City drug dealer who finds 11-year-old Chiron (Alex Hibbert) hiding in a crack den after being chased there by a group of children. Juan delivers the boy home to Chiron's drug addict mother Paula (Naomie Harris in a role as far from Miss Moneypenny as you could hope to get) but he and girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monàe) soon end up taking the boy under their wing. In one of many memorable scenes, Juan teaches Chiron to swim, the breath-taking beauty of the city beach at odds with the hardscrabble lives the pair lead on the Liberty City streets. And it’s Juan who delivers the line which gave McCraney’s original play its title.

The second chapter follows Chiron as a 17-year-old at high school, where he is bullied and ostracised but where he also has his first sexual experience with childhood friend Kevin (Jharell Jerome). For this chapter child actor Alex Hibbert is replaced by Ashton Sanders. The third chapter stars athlete-turned-actor Trevante Rhodes as Chiron, now 25 and living in Atlanta where his life has changed immeasurably. But a dramatic late night phone call takes him back to Liberty City for the film’s moving final scenes.

Intriguingly, the huge events in the characters’ lives – a death, a funeral, the birth of a child, spells in prison and bouts in rehab – take place off screen. Instead, the audience is shown three key moments or relationships and left to fill in the blanks about what has happened and why. Such grown-up storytelling is seen all too rarely on screen these days, and that level of geographical specificity is rare too in American cinema. Meanwhile Jenkins’s technique of shooting widescreen on the same Liberty City streets he grew up on, casting local non-actors in key rolls (such as Juan’s lookouts and corner boys), and circling the action with his camera as it unfolds gives the film a fizzing kinetic energy. It may be at odds with the silent and introspective nature of his three Chirons, but the result is a powerful work that will live long in the memory.

Little Women, Rakuten TV

Streaming from Monday

Amazingly the first cinematic adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved 1868 novel came less than 50 years after it was written, in 1917, followed a year later by another, now lost. Both had British directors and largely British casts.

Fast forward a century and the adaptations are still coming. There have been two in the last three years but this one, the recipient of six Oscar nominations at this year’s Academy Awards, is the only one of the pair worth bothering about.

Directed by Greta Gerwig, it sticks with tradition by featuring an almost entirely non-American cast, with Irish actress Saoirse Ronan taking the role of Jo, Harry Potter star Emma Watson as Meg and the roles of Beth and Amy going to Eliza Scanlen (Australian) and Florence Pugh (also British). Flying the flag for Gerwig’s side of the Pond are Laura Dern as Marmee March, Timothée Chalamet as Theodore, Tracy Letts as Mr Dashwood and, last but not least, Merely Streep as Aunt March. It’s a bravura production in every respect and it may well be a century before it’s bettered, which makes Gerwig’s Oscar snub even harder to reconcile – incredibly, she didn’t make the Best Director short-list.