‘Moonlight’ is truly a remarkable achievement in cinema. Many may overlook this because they have personally gotten over the prejudices that still plague many neighborhoods around the country. We may have gay marriage, civil rights, and more, but the difficulties of the gay and black communities are prevalent. Which is why a movie like this is so enlightening.
Not only is this the first serious look I’ve seen at homosexuality in the black community, but it is one of the most honest depictions of that community I have ever seen. There are no stereotypes in this film. Drug dealers can be surrogate fathers. Mothers can be crack addicts that you feel for. Homosexuals can harm other homosexuals just to hide who they are. And the beauty of love can feel like a miracle with little more than a few words. It’s unforgettable stuff.
The movie also has some of the most memorable scenes of any film this year. There are scenes that are memorable because they feel like something beautiful in the midst of a prejudice world. There are scenes of sexual tension that will leave you on the edge of your seat. And there are scenes that expose the very humanity of the characters with little more than a reaction. This is especially true in a scene where a surrogate father figure named Juan (Mahershala Ali in the performance of his life) is put in his place by the young Chiron (our protagonist) with 4 simple questions. This scene is not just great. It’s the best scene I’ve seen in anything all year!
The story takes place in three chapters of Chiron’s life. The first he is a seven year old boy that people call Little (Alex Hibbert). A boy that is being chased and beat by other boys for being a little more feminine than the other boys. It’s because of his running and hiding that he mets the drug dealer, Juan. This surrogate father is a breathe of fresh air to a silent boy who fears going home to his cracked out mother, Paula (an Oscar worthy Naomi’s Harris). At the same time, Little begins a friendship with a young boy named Kevin. A relationship that will grow to mean more than he could imagine.
The second and third acts take place at the ages of fifteen and twenty-six. I don’t want to give much more away than I have, so I’ll be brief. The younger section digs into the world of bullying and self discovery. We see Chiron make the decisions that will shape the adult he becomes. Then, in the final chapter, we see where his actions lead him and how the hope of love might be able to save his life. We also watch his mother transform before our eyes. It’s an experience that will linger long after the credits role.
The whole thing has honestly lingered with me for weeks. I have found myself thinking about Chiron’s experience in our America and how much it mirrors so many others. I’ve thought about how a few simple things like the color of my skin or my sexual preference could have landed me in this exact position. I’ve thought about what could be done to fix and how much progress we have made. The truth is I can’t stop thinking about this masterpiece and what it did to me. I hope you have the same experience.