Directed and written by Barry Jenkins
Moonlight is a film that takes it's time to unfold. It begins at a very slow pace, which I find refreshing, considering how frenetic the pace of most films are as of late. It's about the life of a young man trying to find himself. It's rich, and is a coming of age tale that has been a long time coming.
The acting is excellent, and it's filmed beautifully. The composition of its score, beautifully put together by Nicholas Britell, provides an interesting juxtaposition, against its urban setting.
The films three chapters, take its time to reveal the content, giving you insight into the main character, I use the term "character" loosely, as it's clearly autobiographical. It is a story told in three chapters, each one as important as the next.
There be some spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk:
This is the story of Chiron aka "Little". A boy, growing up in Miami, in the era of the 80's drug war. He and his single mother are of meager means. He is taunted by the other boys, not only for his size, but because he appears weaker to them.
As we first meet Little, he is being chased by some other schoolboys, and he ends up taking refuge in an abandoned apartment. It is here where he meets one of the important men in his life. Juan, played by Mahershala Ali, is a drug dealer, who immediately takes to watching over Chiron. As they get to know each other, much to the chagrin of his mother, he becomes the father figure that he's not had in his life. There's a very important scene with Chiron & Juan, where he shows him how to swim. The scene plays out as a baptismal of manhood, one which begins the first very important step in Chiron learning about what it means to be a man.
During all this, we are also introduced to Teresa, expertly played by Janelle Monae. Teresa is Juan's girlfriend, and is a strong beacon of light in those moments when Chiron's life is full of darkness. This is due to the fact that Chiron's mother, played on point by Naomie Harris, is a crack addict. Juan and Teresa give him the safe space that he's so desperately needed. This safety though, hides a terrible secret, which leads back to his mother.
All the while, Little is making his way through school. It is here we meet Kevin, who has confidence, and believes in him. While the other boys pick on him, Kevin enjoys being in his company, and makes it easy for him to simply be a boy that's growing up.
As Little grows, his mother's addiction grows worse. He finds himself going to spend nights at Teresa's home. Juan has since passed away, but Little knows this is where he can find some solace.
It's during this time that Kevin comes back into the picture. He spends an evening with Little on the beach, where he has his first sexual experience with him. This tender moment bonds these two people together. This moment of happiness it quickly reaches nightmare status, as the following day Kevin is prompted by the school bully, to knock down Chiron. A defining moment, that has long lasting after effects on the lives of all involved.
As we reach the end of the film, Chiron is grown up, and dealing drugs near Atlanta. He has literally become Juan, the only father figure he's known. At this point in the film, our main character is played by Trevante Rhodes. He goes by the name "Black". A nickname that Kevin gave him when they were younger.
He returns home after he receives a call from Kevin, trying to make amends for what happened many years before. This trip back also involves a trip to see his mother. Who's clearly been through a lot up to this point as well.
The trip ends up being one of closure, and of Black beginning to find himself again. This is a film that stays in your mind long after leaving the theater. Once digested, the film has even deeper meaning. About growing up while facing horrible odds, about finding oneself, and about what it means to grow up a Gay person of color, and the weight that it carries.