Barry Jenkins’ critically acclaimed Moonlight is a masterful use of cinematic elements working together to create intricate synchronizations of emotions and characters that result in a sublime work of art.
Divided in three chapters that span over a period of almost twenty years, we come to know the life of Chiron. At first a shy boy (Alex Hilbert), he’s nicknamed Little because of his size and reserved nature. In the following moment he is a teenager (Ashton Sanders) bullied by his classmates during a sexual awakening amidst the most hostile reality. Then in the present, Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) is a young man who calls himself Black. While his destiny appears to be decided, he continues to face a deep search to discover his identity, which he still has to resolve.
Set in the poorest neighborhoods in Miami, where the crack epidemic has taken hold of many, including Chiron’s mother (Naomi Harris), Moonlight is a mesmerizing study of the reality that United States' ignored minorities live every day. Despite the specific geographic or demographic locations, this story is universal, for at its core it is a tale that can happen anywhere.
This isn’t a story about race, despite having a black protagonist. Though the main character is gay, the message is not limited to LGBTQ community. Despite the economic situation presented in the plot, this isn’t a film revolving around the tragedy of poverty. All these themes become part of the movie in the same way that Chiron’s identity is shaped.
Jenkins is able to weave a delicate balance when showing the life of his protagonist. The script is based on a semiautobiographical play by Tarell Alvin McCraney called In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. Both men grew up in a Miami that hides forgotten stories.
James Laxton’s stunning photography captures the contrast of characters, spaces, darkness, and light. The subtle moonlight constructs a visual storytelling loaded with memorable and poetic scenes.
In the way it took twelve years for Richard Linklater to film Boyhood and use the same actor, Jenkins’ feat was to find three different actors to play Chiron masterfully. The three share the same expressions and stares in a surreal way that keeps the essence of the character throughout the different stages of his life.
To watch Moonlight is to be hit by a brutal emotional force; it’s to be lost in the character’s melancholic gaze, to see our reflection in those broken dreams, identity, and the world who denies that reality; it’s being able to transcend labels, stereotypes, and narratives. This film unravels the different roles we play in the world, whether we're marked by our skin color, sexual orientation, social class, or place of origin, in order to show how in the most intimate and truthful moments we’re only humans. We might have taken a wrong turn towards our destiny; perhaps we might have been defeated into settling for shelter. Still, we remain authentic, unique, and full of an unexplainable hope that drives us to keep searching for our true selves.
There are several films that present stories of sexual awakening in the most dangerous of settings, one of them is Dream Boy. Also, you can read the love lessons taught to us by the saddest movies.
Translated by María Suárez