Review of Moonlight: A Mesmerizing Coming-of-Age Film

Moonlight , a movie centered on issues concerning identity and masculinity that are relevant to today, is a film that pulls you in and leaves a lingering presence in your mind that you can never shake off. It focuses on Chiron, a black, gay youth from the Miami projects, as he navigates through life and tries to find his place in the world. With a different, yet powerful, take on masculine identity in today’s society and an amazing attention to detail, Moonlight is sure to entrap you in wonder with its visuals and mind-blowing story.

A24 Moving seamlessly through time, the film follows Chiron through three key stages in his life: his childhood, his adolescence, and his adulthood. What’s beautiful and powerful about the film is not its ability to be a polished and pristine film, but rather its ability to derive meaning from moments that happen on a day-to-day basis and are often taken for granted. For instance, food makes a consistent appearance throughout the chapters. Seen as something eaten simply for sustenance, food provides Chiron nourishment both in the physical and familial sense as it gives him the opportunity to receive the love he secretly craves.

Even with the change with Chiron’s physical appearance and outwardly demeanor, there is a smooth transition between the chapters as Chiron unknowingly maintains the same personality despite all the changes occurring in his life. This constant behavior doesn’t necessarily make him a static character; rather, it further complicates the plot as Chiron must put on multiple fronts in order to conform to the socially acceptable masculine image at the cost of his true identity. Grappling with the toxic masculinity and homophobia ingrained within his community, Chiron is constantly trying to find out exactly who he is.

Moon Photo by Alexander Andrews from Unsplash The star-studded supporting cast not only adds on to the raw emotions coursing throughout the film, but they also heighten the intensity of the issues and questions of morality within the film itself. Juan, played by Mahershala Ali, is a drug dealer who acts like a surrogate father to Chiron, but he also distributes the drugs that deprive humanity from Chiron’s mother Paula, played by Naomi Lewis. At the same time, the disillusioned Paula explicitly verbally and psychologically abuses Chiron, but later expresses her regrets and undying motherly love for Chiron. Meanwhile, Teresa, played by Janelle Monae, has a quiet, yet powerful, presence as her caring attitude towards Chiron reminds him of the fact that he is loved for who he is despite what others may say.

In addition to the outstanding acting, the film is a visual masterpiece. The scenes drip with vibrant colors and portray Chiron’s surroundings in a hauntingly beautiful way. The attention to small details like the quiet beauty of Juan and Teresa’s home and the glowing full moon at the beach adds a sense of serenity and beauty to a story that centers around issues that are grisly and complex. The juxtaposition of the harsh realities embodied in the dialogue and the gorgeous visual details points towards the complexities that Chiron must face in his search for identity as he must find his own sense of self amongst the chaos.

Zoë Hecht

Moonlight balances the harsh realities of contemporary society and the beauty of cinematography in a unique, coming-of-age story.

Give it a watch on Netflix or other streaming platforms!

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