Barry Jenkin's Moonlight is a powerful mosaic of self discovery and connection, deconstructing the heinous dogma of homosexuality specifically in the African American community, being both universal and specific in its detailed look at its central character, Chiron, a character who desperately struggles to be comfortable in his own skin. Told in three segments, Moonlight details Chiron from early childhood through adulthood, exhibiting how the environment in which he inhabits, one full of drugs and dead-ends, made it nearly impossible for him to find his own sense of individualism and sexual identity. Moonlight exhibits how masculinity and toughness are not simply accepted but expected by males in this culture, showcasing how sensitivity itself is viewed as a weakness, leaving Chiron deeply confused from a young age about his own identity as an individual. One example of this is when Chiron meets Kevin, another young boy, who seems to be masking his sexual idenitity. Alone on the beach, the two share a moment of intimacy, though immediately after Chiron abruptly apologies to Kevin, a reaction which details how deeply conditioned it is in his psyche to believe homosexual behavior is wrong. Chiron's own mother, a drug addict, resents her own child, expecting him to be tougher and look out for himself even at a young age, causing further damage to this young man's confused psyche. The bipolar nature of his mother, one minute showing compassion, the next resentment, encapsulates both the dehabiliting effects of drugs and the importance of strong role models and/or family, making Moonlight not only an indictment of this cultures' disdain for homosexuality but also the disintegration of family due, at least in part, to the "war on drugs". In the final segment of Moonlight we come to find that Chiron has essentially become what he never intended to be, assimilating into this drug culture where toughness and violence are celebrated. For me it's the most powerful segment of the film, as Chiron reconnects with Kevin, and eventually begins to show traces of his true self, not what others, or collective culture, wants him to be. Visually, Moonlight is striking, with Jenkins using a heavy dose of camera movements that combined with a moody, atmospheric score, effectively capture the psyche and emotions of this character in a unique and compelling structure. If I had one complaint, it would be the bully character in the 2nd segment, who feels very out of place, inorganic, and one-dimensional, only there to move the story forward. His antics mimick those of an uncaged animal, intent on stirring up violence, and while I'm sure these characters do exist, the film could have still done a better job at developing his disdain for Kevin, which felt very simplistic compared to all the other characters in the film. Barry Jenkin's has constructed a story of bristling emotion and artistic precision with Moonlight, a film that isn't afraid to play with structure, delivering a rhythmic and heartfelt examination of the importance of individualism and finding onself amongst the noise of what culture and society expects one to be.
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