Moonlight is what shines on us during dark times. It illuminates the darkness. Moonlight is a film that is not afraid to show the darkness and the struggle to find a little bit of light. The film tells the story of Chiron through three vignettes of his identity and growth: young Little, teen Chiron, and adult Black. It would be reductive to call this film a coming of age story, or a film about a black child, teen, and adult coming to terms with their sexuality, or to call this a gay film, or a black film. All of these things are true, in the sense that they describe aspects of the film, but they are each shamefully limiting.
Moonlight is shrouded in darkness, in that it is a film centered around drug dealing and drug addiction, violence, shame and insecurity, and at the heart of all of it: toxic masculinity and expectations of manhood. This is a quiet film, a brooding film, and a violent, and nuanced film. Young Little allows himself to be vulnerable with two adult strangers who have opened their home and hearts to him; he directly questions the feelings he is starting to understand, while at the same time his heart is breaking because this man is also his mom’s drug dealer. The source of his redemption is also the source (if circuitously) of his mother’s damnation. Teen Chiron, despite experiences of daily violence, allows himself to be vulnerable with a friend who is a boy, and experiences his first act of physical sexuality, and real connection. After giving in to violence and following the footsteps of his mother’s drug dealer, adult Black, physically hardened, but not yet emotionally so, travels from Georgia back to Miami to reconnect with the friend from his teens, and maybe even a part of himself that is not yet lost.
Moonlight is necessary viewing in this time of toxic masculinity, of divisiveness, of closing minds, and narrowed empathy.
– Brett Goldberg