Sexual identity has been a commonly avoided theme by many African-American movies over the years. Thankfully, director Barry Jenkins tackled this taboo theme with great confidence in his Oscar award winning film, “Moonlight.”
The main focus of the movie is the character Chiron (played by Trevonte Rhodes) who is dealing with his struggle as a closeted homosexuality. Not only does Chiron struggle with common conflicts such as fitting in at school but his life at home as well.
His mother Paula (Naomie Harris) is resentful and often verbally abusive as a result of her crack cocaine addiction. Through her withdrawals, she is sporadically absent in Chiron’s life, both at home and as a mother.
Because of this, Chiron becomes friends with a warm-hearted drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali). As Juan becomes Chiron’s new father figure he learns the importance of being comfortable with himself.
“Moonlight” is split into three chapters with beautifully shot scenes and an even better soundtrack.
All three acts of “Moonlight” are carried by the realistic dialogue and a beautiful scenery. Even scenes of boys playing dog pile in the dirty fields of a Miami elementary school are made attractive with vibrant coloring.
Although the aesthetic appeal of a movie is very important, provoking powerful feelings through music can be even more effective. In one scene in which two characters are talking about their past together, the scene is set by the song welcoming song “Hello Stranger” by Barbara Lewis.
The majority of the movie includes classical music composed by Nicholas Britell. This is important because without a steady emotional tie to such a serious movie, the audience may lose interest in the film.
Keeping the audience’s interest is effortless for “Moonlight” because of the phenomenal cast.
Trevonte Rhodes’ first movie role as Chiron in “Moonlight” is unforgettable.
Rhode’s subtle facial expressions and tentative movements encapsulates the character of Chiron. Chiron’s love interest Kevin (played by Andre Holland) is the more charismatic of the two with a gangster swagger that goes through a drastic change by the end of the story.
Mahershala Ali’s character Juan is the most impactful in Chiron’s life, stepping in as an accepting father figure at an imperative time in Chiron’s developmental years. Ali’s strong performance as a positive role model to Chiron gives reassurance to the idea of what a great father strives to be.
Acceptance and love are the two main themes of “Moonlight.” No matter what a person’s situation is in life, there is always someone who is comfortable with being authentic.
Chiron’s struggle to figure out who he is and how he can be accepted is a common struggle for anyone of any age. As Chiron gets older, he finds himself slowly becoming what he perceives to be a real man. His entire life, Chiron is surrounded by people who are telling him to be “hard” and to fight people who disrespect him. Growing up in the Southern region of America was even more difficult for him to be accepted as homosexual; this suppression led to Chiron becoming a prisoner of his own mind.
Eventually Chiron realizes he has security and strength in being himself: a gay African-American man in America.
The importance of acknowledging one’s own insecurities and not defeating them but embracing them is the positive message “Moonlight” sends to its audience.