Moonlight (2016)

“Running around, catching a lot of light. In moonlight, black boys look blue. You’re blue. That’s what I’m gonna call you: ‘Blue’.”

‘Moonlight’, directed by Barry Jenkins in 2016, is an American drama focusing on the life of Chiron, a Miami schoolchild who is bullied for being gay and becomes a drug-dealer. Played by three actors: Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert, Chiron starts the movie as a shy, retiring child with a heroin addicted mother. He encounters a local drug dealer called Juan who, with his girlfriend, takes Chiron under his wing. Later we meet Chiron as a conflicted teenager, bullied at school and struggling to deal with his mother after an incident at school in which he snaps, he is arrested by police and we then jump forward to witness Chiron in adulthood. His life of crime is balanced by his buried sexuality however, and a chance phone call rekindles an affair from his past. It’s a subtle movie that follows rather than tells the story of the life of Chiron. The film is filled with characters who are morally ambiguous, who tread the line between hypocrisy and honour. There is also a cyclical feeling to the film, a balance between the character of Juan, a drug dealer who protects Chiron from the mother he is supplying, and Chiron himself as an adult. The dialogue is sparse and the characters, particularly Chiron, laconic, but the director wrings every emotional beat out of the story. The conflict between Chiron’s sexuality and his hyper-masculine occupation and appearance in adulthood is the key to the movie: it’s a film about things that are buried, and tensions that go unresolved.

Would I recommend it? Unlike its Oscar rival ‘La La Land’, I didn’t come away from this film uplifted, but it has preyed on my mind since I saw it. I’d watch it in a double bill with ‘Tongues Untied’, a documentary about homosexuality in the black community on the other side of the States.


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