Moonlight sets out to navigate the delicate conflict between sexuality and masculinity
I’ll be straight with you: When it comes to critiques of Moonlight, I have few.
And that’s coming from the guy who told his brother he was making tea wrong (it goes bag, then hot water, then milk).Little (Alex Hibbard) on the left with his first crush. Source: Village Roadshow.
Set in a rough area of Miami, Moonlight tells the story of Chiron, a young black child struggling with his sexuality and the challenging socio-economic conditions in which he is raised.
It’s one of those films that works almost like a book with chapters.
The first chapter involves Chiron, aka Little (Alex Hibbard), as a young child; the next is Chiron in high school(Ashton Sanders); and the final chapter concerns Chiron – now referred to as Black (Trevante Rhodes) – as a young adult.
With a heroin-addicted mum at home and a pack of lurking bullies at school, Chiron finds himself very much isolated in his world – a reality that lingers with him throughout the three ages displayed in the film. He does however find partial solace in the home of a wealthy drug dealer, Juan, and his wife, Theresa, who take Chiron in as a fake family.
With Theresa (surely a mother Theresa reference), as well Kevin, his school friend and first crush, Chiron has moments of happiness. But for the most part, Little, Chiron, Black – whatever you want to call him – lives a struggled, subdued existence.
So, I’ll start by saying this: If you’re looking for a bubbly, funny film with an outgoing protagonist, get the hell away from my review.
I’m kidding, please stay. There are cookies waiting at the end.Little Chiron with Juan. Source: Village Roadshow.
Alright, now that we’ve got the ‘not a comedy’ trigger warning out of the way, let’s get talking.
This is a really good film. Yes, I acknowledge, that’s a phrase that is thrown around too liberally and means about fuck all. I’ll clarify though: It’s one of those films that film professors and film students would love (as a film graduate, I’m speaking from personal experience). It’s one of those films where annoying pretentious reviewers who’d refer to Superbad as ‘crass’ would dribble over.
And perhaps that means you won’t love it. I know, I sound like a walking contradiction.
But Moonlight is a filmy film. You can appreciate it for its distinct cinematography, its subtle use of climaxes, its symbolism. Oh god, I think I’m becoming one of those pretentious reviewers.
The film’s themes also seemed fresh. A coming-of-age story involving a protagonist struggling with his/her sexuality is hardly new.
But Moonlight goes about it in a refreshing manner. First of all, stories like these very infrequently take place in black ghettos. In contrast, here we have a movie that provides a voice to all those in rougher environments dealing with the seeming conflict between a hard masculinity and homosexuality.
It’s also rare to have films set in these areas that don’t solely concern guns, drugs and violence.
Moonlight does; this is still a pivotal aspect of both the story and the reality of these suburbs. But they are backdropped to make way for more subtle, complex ideas. Instead, Chiron’s tale focusses on dialogue, with moments of violence used pragmatically to heighten the drama.
And the music. Oh the music.
To be honest I only remember some Kendrick Lamar, which kicked things off in the opening credits. But that was enough to melt my ears and decide this was basically the greatest soundtrack ever.Chiron after a high school fight. Source: Merry Jane.
Now, do I have any criticisms? As you would remember with the tea debacle, I’m a very critical guy.
That being said, most criticisms I have of the film I would argue to be subjective. There is a slowness to its pace, contributed to by the lack of typical Hollywood ‘action’. But on the other hand, this is the film’s rhythm – an intentional aspect.
In fact, thinking about it, I really don’t have much to say. Even the acting performances were pretty great. I always love seeing how similar-looking actors they can get when films span over a number of years. Based on that casting performance I’d give them a strong seven. Congratulations.
Safe to say, my critical side has been silenced.
So, unless you have a great aversion to movies that don’t revolve exclusively around tits, abs and explosions, please give Moonlight a watch. It’s basically just really really good.
P.S: I lied about the cookies.