28 November 2016 | evanston_dad
Coming of Age in All Its Complexities
"Moonlight" may very well be a breath of fresh air to others who are tired to death of our culture's obsession with labeling and categorizing everything in an attempt to understand it. If it can't be easily categorized, it's either frightening and something to be opposed to, or it's abnormal and therefore something to be marginalized.
The main conflict at the heart of "Moonlight," a beautiful movie about a young black man's coming of age in poor and drug-afflicted Miami, is our protagonist's inability to define himself in terms that his environment will allow. He doesn't fit into any of the categories available to him, so he sets out to force himself into one that seems like the best option. His name is Chiron, and the movie shows him to us at three stages of his life, portrayed by three different but wonderful actors. As a little boy, he struggles with loneliness and neglect thanks to a crack-addicted mom (played by Naomie Harris) and takes to the first person who offers to be a father figure to him. In a Dickensian twist, this person happens to be a drug dealer who nevertheless offers him sympathy and understanding not to be found anywhere else. The middle section depicts Chiron as a young man navigating his emerging homosexuality and the high school bullying that goes along with it. In the film's final and most breathtaking sequence, we follow Chiron as a man in his twenties to a reunion with a high school friend who gave him his first gay experience and whom he's never been able to completely move on from. This entire sequence is directed, written, and acted with utmost delicacy.
I can't think of a movie in recent memory that puts loneliness and anguish on screen more effectively than "Moonlight." It's a movie that asks us to see life from the perspective of a very specific individual but then draws universal conclusions from it that makes the superficial differences between him and the viewer (I'm not black, I'm not gay, I didn't grow up in a poor urban environment) melt away until you feel deep compassion and sympathy for a fellow human being who is doing what we all are -- navigating the complexities of living on this world and making the best of it we can.