With thunderstorms in the area all day, bringing heavy rains, it was the perfect afternoon to watch another Best Picture nominated film. I prefer to save the Oscar winner in that category until last. However, when I visited the DVD rental store, only Moonlight was available. So Moonlight it was, film 6 out of 9.
Moonlight stars Mahershala Ali, Alex Hibbert, Naomie Harris, Ashton Sanders, Janelle Monae, Trevante Rhodes, Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome and André Holland. This drama, rated R for language, sexuality and violence, was directed by Barry Jenkins and has a run time of 1 hour and 51 minutes. Moonlight was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Ali, Best Supporting Actress for Harris and best Music-Original Score. It won in Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.
Chiron, known as Little (Hibbert), is a young boy growing up in a rough neighborhood in Miami. He lives with his single mom, Paula (Harris), who drifts in and out of Little’s life in a drug and alcohol induced haze. Other than his friend Kevin (Piner), Little has no one to help him navigate through challenges such as bullying at school, being left on his own, and feeling different.
A rescuer shows up, literally, as Little is hiding from his pursuers in an abandoned house. Juan (Ali) forms a frienship with the quiet boy, filling the role of father for Little. Juan and his girlfriend Teresa (Monae) provide stabilty and a sense of family for Little. He opens up enough to ask Juan questions, including how would he know if he was gay. Juan tells him, “You will know when you know.”
Little is slowly gaining confidence in himself and in Juan and Teresa, until he finds out Juan is a drug dealer, selling to his mother. Both Little and Juan are devastated by this revelation.
The second segment of the film follows Chiron (Sanders) as a troubled teen. His relationship with his mother continues to deteriorate, Juan is gone and although Chiron occasionally visits Teresa, he is more and more isolated until he reconnects with his childhood friend Kevin (Jerome). Sadly, shortly after their relationship begins to grow again, Chiron feels betrayed by Kevin. This sensitive, thoughtful young man snaps, with horrific consequences.
The film’s final segment finds Chiron grown, going by the nickname Black (Rhodes) and living a much different life in Atlanta. What dreams he had have been replaced with harsh realities. Black has made himself into a new man, a hard man. And yet he is just as alone in his life as he always has been, until his old friend Kevin (Holland) calls unexpectedly, offering an apology along with a glimmer of hope.
This was an incredible film, very much in alignment with the majority of the Best Picture nominated films. It was beautifully filmed with an amazing musical soundtrack. And it was heavy, bleak, dark.
These movies this year have made me ache with compassion, and Moonlight was no exception. I felt especially protective of young Chiron, when he was called Little. He possessed such promise, had such a sensitive heart and spirit. And there was no one to help him grow into that promise. He longed to be different from his schoolmates. But his differences only brought him pain and grief.
Without guidance or the freedom to live fully as himself, Chiron lost his way, and ultimately became the very person he did not want to be. His journey was heartbreaking to me. It is crushing to realize that there are so many children and youth like Chiron, struggling and alone in life. Rather than fighting against what I was feeling, I stayed open and allowed the tangle of emotions to pass through my heart and sort themselves out.
Moonlight was powerful and painful and sobering. Was it the best of the nine? I don’t know yet. I’ll let you know after I watch the remaining three movies.
Was it thought provoking and heart expanding? Most definitely.
You can pick up your copy of Moonlight below:
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