After seeing Moonlight,’ a friend of mine asked me: Is it a heavy film? I had to think for a second, because my initial answer would have been ‘Yes.’ But, I followed up, it ends up in an uplifting note, and after telling him that, I asked myself why I said so. Did the film really give that impression, or is it just me relating to the film that way?
Directed by Barry Jenkins, and written by him and Tarel McCfraney, the screenplay is based on the latter’s play ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Turn Blue.” It tells the story of Chiron, and the film is split into three specific episodes of his life: first as a ten year old boy (Alex Hibbert), then a teenager (Ashton Sanders) and lastly as a young man (Trevante Rhodes) These episodes are set at three crucial points in his life – when he stops being a boy, when he turns into a man, and when finally he comes himself. He starts out as a questioning kid. Taken in by a mentor, he asks them what the meaning is of a name called to him by his drug-addled mother, and when they answer him, the kid’s face registers deep heartbreak. As an adolescent, he seems to still have trouble fully accepting himself, even as he struggles to find the balance between his orientation and his place in the world. In the final third of the film, he finds it – under the moonlight.
But for me, the best part of the film lies in how we interpret the narrative. As I mentioned, the final scene is a culmination of everything the character has been striving for since childhood. But that is just my projection, perhaps. Maybe I wanted to see that amidst all the hardships, the tears, and the heartbreak, the moonlight provides the light at the end of the tunnel.
This film is a stunning piece of art – lyrical, a visual poem. It may seem to be a black man’s story of growing up black in Miami, but this also our story – of having to fight the hurdles life throws at us, about standing up to our bullies, and then finally, finding what makes our hearts beat. ‘Moonlight’ becomes us.