Moonlight is the heart wrenching and beautiful film, that everyone should watch. It is not very often that a cinematic masterpiece has a black, gay character at the forefront of the story but times are changing.
Adapted by Barry Jenkins from, Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, a play written by Tarell Alvin McCraney. It is a story that centres around the main character, Chiron, a young black boy growing up in Miami. He is trying to find himself whilst seemingly having to raise himself. The film follows Chiron’s journey from boy to man, played by three phenomenal actors charting three phases of life. It highlights the fragility of childhood into young adulthood and how the outcome of one event can alter the map of life.
The story starts with a 9 year old Chiron, played by Alex R. Hibbert being found in an abandoned building after running away and hiding from a bully. He is taken in by an older man named Juan, (SAG award winner Mahershala Ali) and his kind girlfriend Teresa played by Janelle Monáe. Juan and Teresa turn out to be his saving grace in the coming years, and give him the stability he was lacking at home. This comes much to the dismay of his mother, played by Naomie Harris. Harris’s character suffers from a drug addiction and makes it known that she’s unhappy with the new found bond between Chiron and Juan, but doesn’t shy away from benefitting from the friendship either.
We are then introduced to adolescent Chiron (Ashton Sanders), who is still an introverted outcast. We watch him being mocked for being gay by his classmates and although he still gets love and support from Teresa, Juan is no longer around to protect him. Chiron’s only friend Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) is introduced and we witness the beauty of two young men with an electrifying connection. The boys are involved in an unfortunate incident at school which results in them being separated and catapulting their lives down two different paths.
In the third and final phase we meet Chiron now played by Trevante Rhodes, in adulthood. He has changed physically and left the ghosts of Miami behind carving out a new life for himself in Atlanta. One night he receives an unexpected call from his old friend Kevin and finds himself back in Miami.
I was pleasantly surprised at how delicately the story was told and the fact that it wasn’t centred around physical intimacy. Jenkins showed great sensibility when making this film. I will say that I left wanting more, but now I’ve had time to digest it for what it is, I find it to be enough.
You feel empathy for Chiron in each of the three phases of his life. His needs don’t change, they all continue to exist to an extent, they’re just stacked on top of each other… From the first phase you feel for his need for a present parent as 9 year old boy, to when he’s in high school and has a need for control over his situation. You root for Chiron as the underdog in this phase and understand the fact that his emotions have been building up like a pressure cooker, at some point he’s going to explode. In Chiron’s last phase you realise that the visible physical change was more than likely a direct result of what transpired years earlier. Chiron’s masculinity was questioned throughout his life and now physically he looks like “A man’s man” thus putting any questions on his sexuality to bed. Chiron’s life circumstances happened because he only had himself to depend on. Needs must.
You can’t help but wonder who he would’ve become if he had the unconditional love and support he so desperately needed in his early years.
Moonlight is the stark reality for many black men growing up any where in this world. It’s about love, pain, the need to belong, friendships and growing up – it’s relatable. You also feel for the characters, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, you still feel and that’s down to the stellar performances of the cast. It’s a great piece of cinematography – it says a lot without it being said. I get why it’s up for so many nominations this awards season.