Though the recent Oscars were a bit crazy, this year’s best picture, “Moonlight,” gave audiences a refreshing tale of identity and coming-of-age.
Director Barry Jenkins’ second film is based on a play written by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The story follows the timeline of a young African American man named Chiron growing up in a rough side of Miami.
Jenkins breaks each stage of Chiron’s life into three acts and with each new act we are given a new persona. We first meet “Little,” the childhood Chiron, then the quiet teen, Chiron, and lastly “Black,” the hyper masculine adult drug dealer.
Through each tale, we see the transformation of Chiron, the people who influence his life and pure visual beauty.
From the very beginning of the film, were are given a bright visual setting that sets the aesthetic of the film. Jenkins uses a unique orbiting of the camera around Chiron’s father figure, Juan. It is refreshing to see and creates this false idea that Juan is the center of the film’s world.
However, we can argue that the orbiting around Juan is foreshadowing that he will be the center of Chiron’s world. Later on we see traits and ideas that were once Juan’s that are now Black’s, like drug dealing, grills on his teeth and a golden crown in his car.
But Juan offers more to “Moonlight” than just the typical drug dealer persona.
Mahershala Ali’s performance as Juan is simply amazing. He showed us the caring side to a character that normally would just be seen as hyper masculine. Juan shows love and acceptance to a child whose drug-addicted mother neglects him on all levels and doesn’t want to accept that her son might be gay.
There are two scenes that truly display the power of kindness and love in Juan. The first is when he takes Little to ocean for the first time and tells the boy “You gotta decide for yourself who you are.” This scene is shot near the ocean and adds this symbolic baptism-like cleansing of Little.
The second scene is when Little asks Juan what the word “faggot” means. Juan looks at Little and tells him that it is a slur toward gay men. But more importantly, Juan tells Little it’s okay to be gay, but to never let someone call him that slur. Though “Moonlight” is beautiful and has a strong story, there are some things that could be better.
I heard people say that they were disappointed that “Moonlight” was directed by a straight man. It most likely would have been better if the director did reflect Chiron more. However after reading Jeff Sneider’s review on Mashable, I agree with him.
“The only problem with that label here — and it is a label — is that its lead character’s sexuality is defined by a single event; one night, ending in a connection with another human being … who just so happens to also be a man,” he wrote.
We are left with an ambiguous ending and to our own thoughts. Granted the source material is said to reflect parts of McCraney’s life and we can gather that Black is most likely gay. Regardless “Moonlight” is a truly powerful and beautiful film that is Oscar worthy.