Moonlight is a coming-of-age story about a gay black man, focusing on three different stages of his life, chaptered by his many names: Little (childhood), Chiron (adolescent, also his real name) and Black (adulthood). The movie explores the difficulties he faces with his own sexuality and identity, including the physical, psychological and emotional abuse he receives as a result of it. It’s based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. It’s also the first LGBT film with an all-black cast.
I’m having a hard time reviewing this movie. Not because it’s terrible. It anything, it’s the complete opposite of it. But because coming-of-age stories don’t necessarily have a plot, so I don’t have much to latch on to and talk about. And I’m struggling to talk about it as a whole, too, because there are so many themes and sequences. There is no pinning down this movie, but I’ll try, anyway.
It’s rare to see three different actors depict a single life so convincingly, yet it all checks out. The overall narrative arc, however, is initiated and ultimately held together by Juan, a drug dealer with a fatherly side. He protects Little when he sees him get bullied and provides food, comfort, support. The scene in which Juan teaches Little how to swim is reminiscent to a baptism, which carries a strong message on its own. Juan’s relationship with Little, however, is a painful and ironic one because whilst he cares a lot for Little, he is the sole reason behind why Little’s mum hasn’t been around for him.
Love, sex, survival and parental figures are, I would say, the main themes of this movie and there is much to discuss. Though each theme is portrayed in different lights, all carry the same weight and impact on the audience and all of them are highly relevant as well. There is an array of visually ravishing dream sequences, almost like kaleidoscopes. Depending on Chiron’s state of mind, a lot of the scenes feel a lot like hallucinations, yet it doesn’t detract from the movie overall.
The fluidity of each scene makes it all the more cinematically gorgeous. For a movie that depicts a lot of violence and harassment, there is a subtleness and softness to it around the edges that draws you in—like a small flame amidst chaos.
Moonlight is a film about masculinity conditioned by race, sexuality and social standing. It’s what a lot of people call a ‘genre-defying’ movie and, for multiple reasons, it’s hard to disagree. From the casting to its overarching themes, this movie delivers a poignant story that starts of strong and finishes with a graceful bow. It’s rare to see three different actors depict a single life so convincingly, yet it all checks out. It’s heart-rendering as much as it is evocative and hopeful. That combined with its sheer drama makes this a monumental tale that audiences can empathise with.
If you’ve made it this far into my post, then thank you for reading! What did you think of this movie? If you haven’t seen it, are you interested in doing so? Let me know what you think and I’ll see you in my next post.
Until next time,