Despite the gains that have been made throughout the world for gay rights, there is still a lot of backlash and hatred for those who have come out, and there is still a heavy burden placed on those who have yet to come out. This may be especially true for members of the black community, who already have the deck stacked against them as minorities, and have the addition layer of adhering to society's skewed view of black masculinity.
Barry Jenkins' newest film, MOONLIGHT, is a chance to shake things up. Following a boy named Chiron, the film portrays the life-long struggle that he has in coming to grips with his sexuality. The story is segmented into three parts: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
Nine year old Chiron, more commonly called "Little" (Alex Hibbert), is the target of the other kids' torture, though he isn't sure why. When Little gets chased by some neighborhood bullies, he runs into Juan (Mahershala Ali), a crack dealer with a heart of gold, and his girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monáe), who let him stay the night at their house. The love they bestow on him is plentiful compared to what he gets when he returns home to his emotionally abusive mother, Paula (Naomie Harris).
Little also has a friend named Kevin (Jaden Piner), who tells him to show the other kids he isn't "soft". Later, when Chiron (Ashton Sanders) and Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) are 16, they have an intimate moment -- Chiron's first intimate moment with a member of the same sex. But this moment is later ruined by school bullies, and a betrayal by Kevin.
Chiron moves to Georgia, giving himself a chance to "start over" -- he calls himself Black (Trevante Rhodes) and ends up in the same industry as his past father-figure, Juan. But a random phone call from Kevin (André Holland) brings him back home to face his inner turmoil head-on.
This is a beautifully told, honest character study, revolving around a search for a man's personal identity and understanding of black masculinity. Each and every cast member is dynamic in their role, and though there are times when the cinematography tries to overshadow the story, the slow-paced plot gives us a chance to really sink our teeth into these characters.
It is rare to see a story come to life as easily and meaningfully as MOONLIGHT does. Now playing at Midtown Cinema! Don't miss this one.