Warning: This review may contain mild spoilers.
If you haven’t seen this movie, it is definitely worth your time and money.
The film takes place between three time periods of African-American, gay Chiron through his young adolescence, mid-teen, and to his young adult life.
As a child, Chiron, known as “Little”, lives with his single, crack addict mother, Paula (Naomi Harris), in a crime-ridden neighborhood in Miami. Chiron is a shy, withdrawn child largely due to his small size and neglect from his mother, who is more concerned about getting her fixes and satisfying her carnal needs than taking care of him.
Because of these issues, Chiron is bullied and he doesn’t understand the slurs hurled at him beyond knowing that they are meant to be hurtful. Besides his same-aged Cuban-American friend Kevin, Chiron is given what little guidance he has in life from a neighborhood drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali), who can see that he is neglected, and Juan’s caring girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae), whose home acts as a sanctuary away from the bullies and away from Paula’s abuse.
With this childhood as a foundation, Chiron may have a predetermined path in life, one that will only be magnified in terms of its problems when he reaches his difficult teen years when peer pressure affects what he and many of his peers do, unless he follows Juan’s advice of truly making his own decisions for himself.
Moonlight is one of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching films that I have ever seen. The film allowed us to enter and follow a life that I’m sure many have never considered living. Yes, we know some about poverty, queerness, masculinity, and Blackness individually, but to see the conflict of it all so succinctly woven together allowed the complexity of some folks’ lives to be seen in an unadulterated way. Moonlight wasn’t supposed to give us some grandiose finale or even answers, but simply present a narrative that we often don’t see. And that’s what makes it so simple, painful, yet outstandingly beautiful.
The story of his struggle to find himself is told across three defining chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain, and beauty of falling in love while grappling with his own sexuality.
The thing about this movie that deserves the most acclaim is its open-endedness, it’s fight against straightforward categorization and recap. Moonlight is so much more than a movie about growing up gay; it’s about overcoming your adversities and, despite being a product of your environment, figuring out who you want to become. Identity takes time to discover and that’s something anyone can relate to.
Moonlight affected me deeply on a personal level. I may not have come from the same neighborhood as Chiron, but the hostility, insecurity, vulnerability, and bullying was all the same for me growing up. I never expected a movie like this to have an impact on me, as it was hard to watch at some moments, it still kept me in to see how it was going to end. It’s a beautiful masterpiece on figuring out who you want to become. Identity is becoming a common trend because we are now living in a society where there is acceptance or some openness to who you are individually.
Movies like Moana, Moonlight, and so on are what kids and adults need to watch and grasp the idea that finding your identity does take time to discover, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn about each other along the way.
We judge a book by its cover so fast before we even read the title. We don’t take our time taking an interest in something that’s considered “new” to us. There are people, to this day, who are struggling with their meaning or purpose in life. No matter what your lifestyle, be open minded to the things and people that are around you because you never know what positive outlook it can have on you.
From the cast, to the cinematography, to the music, and to its originality, Moonlight shines with an emotional, moving, and powerful story of identity. It is strong and hard to the core about what it means to love you.