Remember the movie Boyhood? The one that took twelve years to make and followed a child from Texas from childhood through his first college year? I certainly did and it was even my favorite movie of 2013. I felt that it followed childhood in an honest method that was very entertaining and had a lot of rewatch value. Whenever I brought this up with people, a lot of them told me that they didn’t like the movie as it didn’t speak to them. At first, I felt their opinion was simply over the movie and that their frustrations were not justified. After I saw Moonlight, it got me to rethink my perception on those people.
I realized that while I felt Boyhood was personal, it doesn’t speak for a lot of people who grew up differently. Some children have even harder lives given their circumstance. While I cannot reflect honestly, there are a lot of unfortunate people that have to see the world in a darker fashion. What I might have seen are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and supporting adults, may only be seen as privilege to those that only see criminals and drug use. Moonlight shows a different kind of childhood.
Sort of like Boyhood, Moonlight follows our main character through different stages of life. In the first part, young Chiron is nicknamed “Little” for his small size and quiet personality is the target of bullies who see him as an easy target. He hides in an abandoned motel where he’s later found by crack dealer Juan (played by Mahershala Ali). The man takes the young boy to his house where his girlfriend Teresa (played by Janelle Monáe) lives. They feed him dinner and let him spend the night. These kind gestures get Chiron to open up to them. Juan returns him to his home where his emotionally abusive mother Paula (played by Naomie Harris) scolds her son for not coming home after school.
It seems that the only other personal that Chiron can open up to is his friend Kevin who remains his best friend through high school. The rest of the movie shows his world as his mother descends further into crack addition and his neighborhood becoming tougher. In the next two segments, one being him in high school and the last of him being a young adult, Chiron starts to discover something about himself that he’s scared to talk about.
I don’t want to give too much away as what makes Moonlight unique is its portrayal of the African American community. Not that I haven’t seen it before, but the direction understands that with the direction that it went, very few movie have courage to talk about it in the open. What is it exactly? I honestly can’t say or I’d spoil it.
Like Boyhood, it’s smart with it’s decision to let the side characters have more personality until our main character gets older. All three actors that play Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) are phenomenal in their segments. Each of them capture a unique kind of evolution that is often played too over-the-top in sitcoms.
In fact, I’d go as far to say that all the acting in this is great. I’m serious when I say that this is an amazing ensemble cast where everyone is perfect. Though it’s hard to pick, I’d say that my favorite came from Mahershala Ali who is the closest thing to a father that the main character has. I can understand why Moonlight is at the top of a lot of best movies of 2016 lists.
I’ll give this four and a half Miami sunsets out of five. Though this is really hard movie to watch, I think everyone should watch this at least one. Moonlight is a little movie with large ideas. I’d say give it a watch if you want something that’s more engaging then entertaining.