The Mesmerizing, Grace-filled ‘Moonlight’

By Therese Gardner, Edited by Olivia Norwood

Surprise! The film for this Time Warp Tuesday happens to be the Oscar award-winning film ‘Moonlight’. That’s goes without saying, this happens to come after the La La Land review from two weeks prior, which is suggestive of La La Land accidentally being announced as winner for Best Picture. A moment that would not soon be forgotten in Oscar history.

Considering Moonlight won Best Picture, it is highly likely that many are aware of this groundbreaking film. For those who have not yet heard of this film or have chosen not to see it, I highly recommend for all to do so.

Based on the unpublished play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight chronicles separate stages in the life of a young, gay black man, Chiron, growing up in Miami, Florida. Each chapter displayed throughout the film is portrayed by separate actors and are presented as his youth (Little), adolescence (Chiron), and early adult life (Black). As a coming-of-age film, written and directed by Barry Jenkins starring Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, and Janelle Monae among others is a beautiful presentation of what it is like to be a young, black man growing up in America. Another interesting piece of this film relates Jenkins and McCraney, as the story is a mere reflection of specific moments within each of their lives as they grew up in Miami.

Within the first chapter, Juan finds Chiron, or Little, hiding from a group of bullies and allows him to spend the night at his place where Janelle Monae as Teresa, the girlfriend of Juan, is introduced. Despite Chiron returning to his mother, Juan and Chiron continue to spend time together and eventually Chiron admits he hates his mother. This stage in Chiron’s life is patchy and marked by Little being taunted for being ‘different’ in the eyes of his classmates. As a teenager, Chiron continues to struggle with being bullied and understanding who he is. Once Chiron reaches adulthood he goes by the nickname ‘Black’ and revisualizes previous wet dreams he had of one of his earlier classmates, Kevin. He returns to Miami to visit his mother and then reunites with Kevin. The two embrace one another as Chiron recalls standing on the beach in the moonlight.

Throughout the film, there are many aesthetically pleasing and simply breathtaking moments in which one cannot help but be in awe of the brilliant minds behind this masterpiece. From the beginning, it is clear that this is no ordinary film with a cliche meaning. It goes far beyond surface level in order to better display the challenges faced growing up in America as a black, gay child.

One of the most memorable moments in Moonlight is during the beach scene. It is raw and real, it solidifies the bond between Chiron and Juan, performed by Mahershala Ali, whom becomes a father figure for Chiron. During this scene, Chiron and Juan are seen playing in the water and then found sitting by the waves overlooking the beach when Juan tells Chiron, “at some point you gonna have to decide who you want to be, you can’t let somebody else make that decision for you.” Although a seemingly insignificant moment to many, this moment details concisely an important message within this film. It signifies the journey Chiron is on for the entirety of the film, as he is becoming who he is meant to be and creating his own path in life all while grappling with the difficulties of growing up.

Moonlight is a monumental film in that in winning Best Picture, it has now become the first film with an all-black cast and the first LBGT film to ever win Best Picture. It’s quite sad that it’s taken this long to do so, and alludes to the notion that while we have made a lot of progress, we still have so much more to make.

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