The evolution of a young black man at three different points of his life is examined in Moonlight. A young Miami boy nicknamed “Little” (Alex Hibbert) is taken under the wing by kindhearted drug dealer Juan ((Mahershala Ali), who is much more caring than his drug-addicted mother Paula (Naomie Harris). Going by his given name as a teenager, Chiron (Ashton Sanders) is repeatedly harassed by bullies, with his only true connection being with his childhood best friend Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). As an adult, “Black” (Trevante Rhodes) has become a successful drug dealer in Atlanta, who travels back to Miami for a reunion with his mother and Kevin (André Holland).
The sophomore feature film from director Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy), Moonlight depicts three different points in the life of a young black man named Chiron. The film purposely structures itself to portray these three versions of Chiron as completely distinct personalities, to the point that they are each given a different name. The film shows how the events of Chiron’s life end up shaping the person that he is going to become. This includes the fatherly relationship “Little” has with Juan, who just happens to be his mother Paula’s drugdealer. However, perhaps Chiron’s most poignant connection is with his best friend Kevin, which goes through many ups and downs over the years.
I often try not to let the opinions of others influence the way I watch films, however that has become quite difficult with Moonlight, which has received unadulterated praise from practically everyone I know. While I will say that I undoubtedly liked Moonlight, I cannot bring myself to join the chorus of people calling it the best film of the year. It’s nothing against the film itself, which is still a well constructed character study. However, the film didn’t really connect with me the way it did with others.
I will say that it is indeed great that there is a film by a black filmmaker and black cast that doesn’t really bring that much attention to race. There is some hope that Moonlight will receive some Academy Award nominations and help bring an end to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. We’ll just have to wait and see if the Academy responds to Moonlight the same way many of the public has.
I will undoubtedly say that Moonlight is a film worth seeing. However, personally I didn’t feel that that the film was much more than an interesting character study of one man’s life.