Seen Monday, November 21st: Moonlight
A journey through the childhood ("Little"), adolescence ("Chiron") and early 20s ("Black") of a young black man named Chiron coming of age in Miami. Growing up poor and practically having to raise himself as his single mom sinks into a crack addiction, Chiron manages to find tenderness in unexpected people and places. While his circumstances and cruel peers bully him into being hypermasculine, those moments of tenderness and refuge allow him to explore his sexual identity along the way.
The lighting. The colors. The contrast. A fantastical world sprouting from the hood. I wish I had enough film studies vocabulary to explain what I mean, but I can't. Watch the film and you'll see what I mean.
What I Don't Like About This Film: This is actually part of the genius of the film rather than something I dislike, but I feel like we never truly learn who Chiron is as a person. We know all of his nicknames, we know the people who make and break his world. We know he's got a tenderhearted soul on the inside, but who is he? One could argue that it's not even clear whether he's gay or not. Obviously he's had same-sex feelings and encounters, but would Chiron necessarily identify himself as a gay man? From early on, numerous people remind him that he's gay or somehow not masculine enough and that he should expect to be mistreated for it, but this is long before he has the chance to examine himself or even know what a "f*gg*t" supposedly is. He is drawn to his classmate Kevin, but is this because he's attracted to him or because Kevin's the only person his age that's kind to him? Upon their reunion as adults, is the intimacy they share in the final scene a lovers' embrace, or a pair of long-lost friends holding each other up? Perhaps I'm too straight and inexperienced in matters of the heart to properly appreciate the subtleties. But my impression is that at the end of Moonlight, Chiron is just on the threshhold of being able to express himself as an unencumbered adult.
Would I recommend it?: Most definitely. We don't have many black boyhood movies, and we certainly don't have many black boyhood films that contemplate masculinity and sexuality with the care that Moonlight does. This film is beautiful and valuable and necessary, so if you have the chance to see it then please do!