Designed as an art house film, Moonlight is a universal tale about self-discovery, connection, sexuality and masculinity. It sheds light on the plight of gay men who struggle with their sexuality and identity, especially when living in a masculine environment.
It is a triptych tableaux narrated in defining chapters on the life of a young man named Chiron. The narrative chronicles three formative experiences at different stages of his life, each serving as its own one-act play which complement one another as they formulate his personality.
In chapter one titled 'Little', a nickname given to Chiron by the boys in his locality, he is chided by, among others, his own drug-addicted mother Paula for his effeminate gait. Confused and lacking a father figure, Chiron latches on to a local drug handler Juan, who along with his girlfriend, Teresa takes him under their wings.
He questions who he really is?
In the next chapter, titled 'Chiron', we follow Chiron as a teenager in high school and his relationships with his peers and explorations with his friend Kevin. He is now more isolated and vulnerable and Jaun is conspicuous by his absence.
And in the final chapter, named 'Black'- a nickname he earned affectionately from Kevin - settles on him as an adult and his coming to terms with his identity.
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With minimum dialogues from the protagonist, the film says a lot. It has been said that "humility is no substitute for a good personality", and this is the case with Chiron.
He is very difficult to identify with and any personality he might have, must be kept in his closet and the subtlety is sublime, right from Alex R. Hibbert playing the young Chiron to, Ashton Sanders playing the teenager and Trevante Rhodes essaying the adult part.
He is aptly supported by Mahershala Ali as Jaun, Janelle Monae as Teresa, Naomie Harris as Paula, Jharrel Jerome and Andre Holland, as the teenage and adult Kevin respectively.
The film begins in an impressive artistic manner with lengthy seamless shots. But with little to say, the film gets very difficult to steer clear from being contrived and the climax has its moments of tenderness. Cinematographer James Laxton's frames can be striking, but his hand held jerky shots along with some abrupt edits, add to the list of events that mar the viewing experience.
By the end, the film meanders and the once artistic shots get tedious to watch. It also, dawns on you that all you're really getting from this, is a pretentious claptrap, that is both different and familiar and amounts to nothing less than watching the birth of human identity on screen.