Moonlight is a 2016 drama movie directed by Barry Jenkins. It narrates the story of a young African-American boy named Chiron who navigates his journey into adulthood while growing up in an impoverished neighborhood in Miami, Florida. It is told in three parts: Little, Chiron, and Black. Each part represents a different era of Chiron's life and the title depicts the identity that Chiron decides to associate himself with. As a child, Chiron is bullied by other kids his age and has a difficult and often abusive relationship with his mother Paula. He spends time with a local couple Juan and Teresa who understand his troubles and care for him. Juan becomes an important role model to Chiron and is the father that he never had. Juan teaches the boy how to swim, how to stand up to others, and how to treat the community. Juan looks out for Chiron and berates Paula for her neglectful presence in her son's life and her irresponsible drug addiction. However, Chiron severs ties with Juan after he discovers that Juan had initially sold drugs to Paula and had kept it from Chiron so not to upset him. As a teenager, Chiron continues to be cared for by Teresa after Juan's sudden death. He begins to have feelings for his childhood friend Kevin after an intimate moment with him at the beach and is doubtful about what his attraction signifies as a man. The school bully Terrel coerces Kevin into punching Chiron as a toxic hazing ritual and Chiron is subsequently beaten. When a social worker asks Chiron to admit who had injured him, he refuses to confess and explains that it would not solve how people view him. Remembering that Juan had always advised him to never let people manipulate him, Chiron smashes a chair at Terrel and is then arrested. As he is taken away, he shoots a venomous look at Kevin that implies his growing independence. As an adult, Chiron lives in Atlanta and deals drugs like Juan had once done. He often recieves calls from Paula who lives in a drug rehabilitation facility and asks her son to visit him. He also recieves calls from Kevin who works as a diner manager in Miami and asks that Chiron reconnect with him. Chiron decides to travel back to his hometown and visits Paula. They share a tearful moment as Chiron admits that he resents his lack of empathy for her and Paula in turn apologizes for her lack of responsibility as a mother and tells him that she loves him regardless of whatever happens. They reunite and Chiron is motivated to meet Kevin. At the diner where he works, Kevin explains that he is now a single father and a changed man. He confides to Chiron that although his life was never meant to take the path that it did, he is happy. When Kevin confesses that he often thinks about Chiron and what could have happened had they made better choices as children, they comfortingly embrace. The film concludes with a poignant flashback of Chiron gazing out onto a peaceful Miami beach, soaked in moonlight.
When I first viewed this film, I was taken aback. It was a very raw and passionate perspective on the hidden lives of Miami's youth. The inner conflicts of those society deems to be ordinary are anything but conventional. Although the story is mainly fiction, it is based on Tarell McCraney's semi-autobiography. Despite not being a movie I would particularly recommend to everyone, it is a movie I think would leave a lasting impression on viewers. It is emotional, ardent, and melancholy but overall a moving work of cinema.