Chiron trying to outwait the bullies.
Moonlight centers on the harsh realities of black life in the inner city. It is a slice of life that we would all like to escape or simply ignore. After the show, a woman said, “That was really hard for me to watch.” I thought, “My sentiments exactly.”
Chiron’s life is played in three phases by three different actors as he grows into manhood.
As a young boy being raised in the Miami projects, he is bullied and considered to be too soft by the other neighborhood boys. He is often afraid to go home and when he does get home, his mother is addicted to crack and there is no father there.
One day while he is hiding from his tormentors in a vacant apartment, a man named Juan rescues him and takes him home to his girlfriend. He will not talk and Juan (Mahershala Ali) knows that his girl Teresa (Janelle Monae) can get him to open up. He bonds with them and they become like surrogate parents to Chiron.
Juan is the only male mentor he has and he teaches him to swim along with other survival skills. One night while in a rage, Chiron’s mom calls him a faggot. He later asks Juan and Teresa what that meant and the couple was at a loss for words. Teresa assures him that he has time to figure things out.
Later we see Chiron as a teen in high school. His mother, Paula (Naomi Harris) has become even sicker from her drug use and he still hides from the same bullies. One day, they all beat him rather badly. He is hurt that his friend Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) threw the first punch because they had recently shared some intimate moments on a beach.
The school does not stop the bullying, so Chiron takes matters in his own hands and attacks the main perpetrator with a chair. He is arrested and spends time away in jail. Ashton Sanders plays Chiron as a teenager and his portrayal is quite memorable.
When we see him again, Chiron looks almost identical to Juan. He is now a grown man, (Trevante Rhodes) wearing a headscarf, heavy jewelry and gold grills on his top and bottom teeth. It is shocking to see who he has become and he also deals drugs. He drives his car playing loud rap music as he makes his rounds to collect money from his sellers.
He makes peace with his mother who is in rehab. She asks for forgiveness and he does his best to comfort her. He also receives a long distance call and an apology from Kevin (Andre Holland) after many years and Chiron drives to see him.
Moonlight shows what happens to many black children in the inner cities where there are no fathers, addicted mothers and broken spirits. This is a story that needed to be told and this film is up for several nominations. The black filmmaker, Barry Jenkins collaborated with playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney to create this piece about Miami in the 80’s and 90’s.
They both lived in the same housing project though they did not know each other at the time. They agreed that others needed to know what life was like during the crack epidemic. They also used children from the neighborhood middle school to play Chiron and Kevin as children in Scene I (Alex R. Hibbert and Jaden Piner, respectively).
At the end, Kevin asks, “Who are you man?” He could not believe Chiron’s hardcore lifestyle but it is soon revealed that he is the same sensitive, crying man-child that he knew from their childhood.
Langston Hughes’ poem Dream Deferred fits this movie.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up, like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore
And then run…..
Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Lynn M. February 11, 2017