Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight (2016)

based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney

written and directed by Barry Jenkins


In the indie drama Moonlight, writer/director Barry Jenkins introduces us to Chiron Harris, a sensitive kid who grows up poor in Miami’s Liberty City, spends his teenage years uncared for by his addict mother and bullied by his peers, and eventually becomes an emotionally withdrawn adult. But what separates this from other coming-of-age films is that Chiron’s remoteness is directly related to his sexual identity as a black homosexual trying to survive in an aggressive male-dominated world. Indeed, a place where being a “faggot” could very well get you killed.

Moonlight is split into three distinct acts (“Little,” “Chiron,” and “Black”), with different actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) playing Chiron at different stages of his life. But the film’s artsy vibe – a soundtrack featuring Mozart and Caetano Veloso, stylized cinematography, long, spinning takes – works against it. I also had issues with some of the supporting characters, in particular drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), a criminal with a heart of gold who takes Chiron under his wing. A little nuance, a little danger, would’ve made this unlikely friendship much more believable.

It’s in the final act that Moonlight finds surer footing. The adult Chiron has followed in Juan’s footsteps and is now a pusher himself. One day he receives a call from his old friend/one-time fling Kevin (André Holland) – the only person Chiron’s ever loved – and something long repressed stirs inside of him. They meet at the diner where Kevin works as a cook, and the scene that transpires is filled with longing and things unsaid. Their final embrace speaks volumes, and for a brief moment Moonlight shines brighter.

Rating: **½

Carlos I. Cuevas