Basking In The ‘Moonlight’
By Mary Dixon
As my first piece for Film Fad, I’ve decided to talk about a movie that not only captivated me, but changed my thought process on storytelling. I’m a horror writer, so traditionally I usually enjoy that genre, while also dabbling in Science Fiction. “Heavy” stories usually steer me away, though I understand their merit in the filmmaking world. But I took a plunge and indulged in the emotional rollercoaster ride that is Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s masterpiece, “Moonlight.”
To try to sum this story up into a particular genre would not only be impossible for me to do, but it would be insulting to the work itself, and would attempt to box in a piece of art that shines because of it’s ability to transcend any sort of label. Told in three distinct acts and points of life, this story chronicles the trials and tribulations of Chiron, a young African American boy that is growing up in the housing projects of Miami. He is nicknamed by the other little boys in the town “Little”, because he is just that, little. The film opens in the streets with a drug dealer named Juan, who sees Little being chased down by a group of little boys and saves him- but the saving doesn’t stop there. He becomes something of a surrogate father to the little boy, who is being raised by his young mother, wrestling with a growing demon that is crack addiction. But in a truly Shakespearian twist, we learn it is Juan himself who supplies the crack that is caging his mother, leading to a troubled home life with too much worry and too little love. There is something so refreshing about Juan’s character however, than just a drug dealer trapping. He breaks the stereotype that we have come to expect out of a black man selling crack in the projects- he’s tender, he’s caring, he brings a little boy into his home and looks over him without an expectation of anything. There is a moment where Little asks, “What’s a faggot?”, to which Juan painfully replies “A ‘faggot’ is a word used to make gay people feel bad.” Juan is a display of the duality of life in that we may be in situations where something we do isn’t good, but that shouldn’t stop us from being good ourselves.
The story continues on to Chiron as an adolescent and his struggle dealing with a mother that has collapsed into herself with addiction, his complication with his sexuality and a surprising and major death that isn’t mentioned loudly except in passing- another device that I’m in love with, how specific and honed in they are with these certain points and moments in Chiron’s life. At times you fail to realize you’re still watching a film rather than witnessing these very real, almost unbearably personal moments of a friend. Another side bar that I’m going to go on, and I’m sure there will be many, is how little this movie gives you, but somehow gives you more by doing so. You come to understand Chiron’s life, but they aren’t filling all of the blanks in for you. The jump between his young youth and his adolescent youth is a big one. So many things go on and happen in his life but you just don’t get it. The only thing they give you is who Chiron is at that moment, exactly where they want you to be. Who they want you to know, and how the events that you just saw continued shaping this person, and what they became. During “Chiron’s” chapter in the film, the ending of it is an extremely climatic and tense situation, but you don’t get the details of what happened- all you get is who Chiron became. Could that be the actual charm of this storytelling method? That we get wider gratification by missing the details and you’re handed the overall picture? Probably.
I have to take a quick second to also give huge fucking props over to James Laxton, the film’s cinematographer. He tells a story with his shots. It’s literal perfection on screen, from the shot composition all the way down to the lighting and color he chooses to go with. He takes special care with every second, and if he doesn’t win an Oscar this season, he will be fucking robbed for it. And I will once again retain all of the resentment I have held for the Academy for so long because of Leonardo DiCaprio. But I digress. Another component of the film’s infrastructure that I’m simply in love with was its original soundtrack composed by Nicholas Britell. I could aimlessly go on praising the merits and the strengths of this film- what made it so perfect to me. But you would stop reading, and I would go down a rabbit hole that would and has encompassed me for weeks. The film is beautifully acted out, it’s beautifully shot (someone seriously get this Director of Photography a fucking Oscar, immediately), and it’s beautifully told. It’s my top pick this Oscar season because simply put it exemplifies what a good movie consists of- what the art is truly about.
“Moonlight” – go bask in it.
“Moonlight” is on Blu-ray and DVD on February 28.