Thursday, September 21, 2017

Moonlight: An Important Story of Courage and Perseverance

Movie Review: Moonlight (2016)
Version: Library borrow

As complex and riveting a story as I have seen in a long time is Moonlight. It traces the story of a young African American gay man growing up on the rough streets of Miami. We see his difficult life as a bullied quiet "little" boy of around age 9, as an abused teen, and as a recovering adult. It is vague about his sexuality, although there is one explicit scene in his teen years when a close friend introduces him to gay sex on a lonely beach at night. Less vague are the scenes of motherly neglect as he is growing up and the abuse he receives as a weak male by other children when he is a boy and when is a teen, even receiving a beating on the playground, an act forced on his close friend by the other more aggressive teens.

The main character is Chiron, played at various ages by Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes. He is mentored as a child by a neighborhood drug dealer named Juan (played by Mahershala Ali) and given shelter by Juan's caring girlfriend Teresa (played by Janelle Monáe) when Chiron's mother Paula (played by Naomie Harris) sends him away so she can do drugs or be instead with her boyfriends. Later as a teen Chiron has no mentors, just the shelter of Teresa's home and the friendship of boyhood friend Kevin, played at various ages by Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, and André Holland. After his beating on the playground, usually weak teen Chiron has finally had enough and returns to class to take a chair to the back of the head of the main bully who brought on his beating, resulting in his arrest. We next find him on the streets of Miami as a drug dealer. It's been years since his beating, since getting out of jail, and Chiron has moved on and changed his life.

Out of the blue, Chiron gets a call from his old friend Kevin, the one who gave him the beating in the playground. He's wondering what he's been up to all these years. What's he up to now? And we find out how their two lives have changed. Kevin was Chiron's close friend, who shored him up when others were picking on him, who stood at his side until he was challenged by the stronger bullies to act out against Chiron. Now there is an implicit invitation for Chiron to visit Kevin in Atlanta and when Chiron drive up to see him out of the blue, there's another implicit invitation. Chiron has driven all the way there to see what it's all about. 

Everywhere in Chiron's life there is danger. There is betrayal (except for Juan and Teresa). There is abuse. We are always wondering where his life will turn. Even at the end, when there is a slight twist of fate, we wonder where Chiron's life will turn. 

Moonlight won the Best Picture Oscar Award. It was promoted as being controversial because it was a daring movie about a Black homosexual. But having seen it, I would say it is less about that than it is about the abuse of the weak and the rise of the abused against horrific odds.

A good film, a daring film, a film exploring new ground in old territory, Moonlight is an important story of courage and perseverance in a difficult world. It's definitely worth seeing. 

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