In moonlight, black boys look blue.
That’s both a quote from this film and the name of the play from which the film is adapted, and I must say there are times where it rings true. I’d never noticed that before, just like I’d never noticed a lot of the observations in this film.
Moonlight is a three-chapter film about a man named Chiron (pronounced Shy-rohne), each titled by his nickname at the time. You start out with Little, where he’s a little short for his age and picked on by the boys. Next, you have Chiron, where he’s taller but still picked on; and then you have Black, at which point he’s become a bit of a gangster. Not only does the film detail his physical transformation, but it also chronicles his struggles with his identity—Chiron is homosexual.
Despite having three clear acts, director Barry Jenkins does not wrap everything up in a neat little package. This is a poetic film about real life, and nothing ever works out the way it’s supposed to. Characters in one chapter might not show up again in others, since they’re living their own lives, and very little material is provided to bridge the gaps in time. But that makes it poetic, not lacking. By the end, the film is so true to life, you feel like it’s really happened.
You’ll recognize a lot of the faces here, from Mahershala Ali (House of Cards) to André Holland (Selma) to Janelle Monáe—all of whom are brilliant. Naomie Harris (Skyfall) plays Chiron’s addict mother, and we’ve all known someone like her. Also, this is a small bit of praise, but I haven’t seen age makeup done so well in a very long time.
Moonlight is one of those films that, even though it’s an average length, flies by. I didn’t feel it dragging until the middle of the third act, and it picked up again before its conclusion. It’s one of the most universally relatable films of the year.
Moonlight is in theaters now.
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