Some films just grab you. They wrestle with your emotions, force you to consider other perspectives, and leave you uncomfortable at moments. ‘Moonlight’ did all this to me and for that, it is my Film of the Year.
‘Moonlight’ is directed by Barry Jenkins and it takes place in Liberty City, a suburb of Miami. It is here where we meet our protagonist, Chiron, as a young boy constantly being picked on and bullied. It is also at this point that we meet Chiron’s best friend, Kevin. The two strike up a quick rapport and their friendship continues into high school.
It’s here where the film really picks up as Chiron begins to come more into himself and his sexuality while also dealing with the accompanying drama that comes with adolescence. The friendship between Kevin and Chiron deepens and the two even share a moment on an abandoned beach. The bullying however, doesn’t stop, and Chiron responds in a way that is both frightening and cathartic. In the last third of the film, both Chiron and Kevin are grown men with separate lives and their relationship has evolved too with the years.
This is a very basic synopsis of ‘Moonlight’ and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention young Chiron’s relationship with the neighborhood drug dealer Juan (played by Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend Teresa (played by Janelle Monae). There’s also Chrion’s deteriorating relationship with his drug induced mother, who just so happens to be a client of Juan’s.
Watching ‘Moonlight’, I was moved by the story and the cinematography held
my attention, in particular the various close up shots of Chrion and Kevin through the years. We literally see boys become men dealing with a cornucopia of emotions in ways we rarely see by men in American cinema – much less so by black men at that. What also is refreshing about ‘Moonlight’ is that the characters aren’t one dimensional representations of certain beliefs or stereotypes. For instance, Juan, though he may be the neighborhood drug dealer, he takes in a young Chiron and accepts him in ways Chiron’s own mother refuses to.
For its depth, character development, story cohesion and cinematography, ‘Moonlight’ earns my 2016 Film of the Year nod. Nobody should miss the picture regardless of their background, for I believe everyone can take something away from it.