A timeless story of human connection and self-discovery, Moonlight chronicles the life of a young black man (Chiron) from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
Other than Captain America: Civil War, Moonlight was probably my most anticipated movie of 2016. After hearing about it on both Fresh Air and Code Switch, the hype was real. Thankfully, the movie lived up to all of the hype. Here are some of my random thoughts.
1. Moonlight was filled with white space.
White space probably isn’t the right term, but as a writer, it’s the only term I can think of. By white space, I mean the director is a minimalist. He removes large chunks of the narrative out of the story, leaving only essential scenes and interactions. It’s like the director leaves plenty of room for the audience to make their own connections. The biggest example of white space is the absence of violence. We never see any violence until the midpoint climax, but the violence is inferred through the whole movie. The violence is like an invisible character. You see it’s shadow but hardly ever see the character itself. Which I’m happy, oh so happy about. That meant I never had to ugly cry like I did in 12 Years A Slave. That’s damn movie used violence like a machete. It cut me to pieces. I don’t think I will ever see another slave movie again.
But back to Moonlight. The audience took it easy on the audience. I don’t know if that’s fair to the main character, but as reader, I’m thankful. Not seeing most of the violence didn’t mean that I cared for Chiron any less.
2. Juan played by Mahershala Ali deserves an Oscar
I first saw Mahershala Ali on House of Cards as Remi. Ali is a strong actor and he holds his own against the likes of Kevin Spacey. In Luke Cage, he was playing a bad guy with a horrible temper. I never believed his performance in the Marvel show. But in Moonlight, as the kindly, strong drug dealer, who befriends Little, he gave a beautiful, Oscar Worthy, performance. The character Juan is a bright spot against the darkness. He is a flawed character and a realistic hero.
By the second act, Juan is gone/dead. We’re never told how. We don’t see his death. We don’t see Chiron’s reaction to it. Again the audience is spared the pain of seeing Chiron in pain. But we know it’s there. This is another example of white space. We have to fill in the blanks, take notes off to the side in the margins.
3. Trevante Rhodes, the dude that plays adult Chiron AKA Black is very, very handsome.
Yo! he was fine. If I was rich and a director, I would make lots of movies and only have him star in them. ??
It was delightful to see the older Chiron/Black have the same mannerisms as Little. It was beautiful to see the child still in the man even though he had spent so much time trying to kill/hide that vulnerable part of himself.
4. The son becomes the father.
Juan was Chiron’s father figure. So it was also interesting to see him emulate Juan’s character in the third act. His gold teeth, his Durag, his chosen profession, and his mentorship with the younger men he works with; even if he is mentoring them to be drug dealers.
5. Lastly, this was an artful movie. It was subtle and beautiful without having any Miami glam.