Moonlight has gained itself an abundance of cinematic attention and not just because it was the film that usurped the accidentally announced LaLa Land winner at the Oscars. Moonlight is more than “The other side of the tracks” type film that gives outsiders looking in a perspective on life they rarely or never see and only hear about in the company of strangers. In 2017, the obsession over another individual’s sexuality still carries that “whoa” factor, and it’s the reason why films like these have the potential to garner the amount of attention they get. Even if you haven’t seen the film, chances are you’ve heard whispers about that “gay movie” gaining traction for being a contender in best picture of the year category. Now that the Oscars are over, and Moonlight has solidified its spot as best picture of the year, albeit minor incident and slight scandal during the winning announcement, is it worth watching and investing 111 minutes of your life?
Categories are great, they make things very efficient and convenient, but in the same breath, categories possess the same ability to throw things into a box. “Yeah that was my favorite ‘gay movie’ or favorite ‘black film'” and what no one realizes is that maybe we should just appreciate the film for the perspective that it has brought to the table and leave out the overly obvious observations.
Moonlight is broken up into three chapters and explores the trials and tribulations of a young African American’s life journey through the gritty city of Miami. This movie manages to evade the plethora of stereotypes often associated with “urban coming of age” films. Beautifully strategic camera angles and classical music coupled with color cues that often nod at Miami’s Art Deco palette, this film doesn’t have to try hard at all to keep your attention. The main character also suffers the same fate of being thrown into a category as well, there’s a certain expectation of behavior where the main character, Chiron, is from and this film meticulously and intimately explores “what DOES it mean to be a man?” As a black man growing up in an urban area how should you act? What’s the best way to conduct yourself?
“Black boys look blue in the moonlight” is the play written by Tarrell Alvin McCraney that is the backbone of inspiration and screenplay adaptation for the movie Moonlight. This wasn’t a “gay movie,” or exploited homosexuality in any way to add character to the film. Individual growth is an expectation that comes packaged with age. The film intimately highlights the development of personal identity in different stages of the main character’s life. As the picture evolves over time, pivotal points in Chiron’s life, like his teens years, showcase how events possess the ability to define your life as an adult, cause and effect, action and reaction.
Although falling into the same category as other films like Boyz in the Hood just by being a coming of age “black boy to a black man in the ghetto movie,” this film does a great job with dodging and ducking cliches that urban films typically fall victim to. Moonlight disrupts the normal structure of how gritty “hood” movies are told. This film displays self-awareness in many of its scenes, especially when the dilemma arises of a mentor serving narcotics to the mother of a boy who views him as somewhat of a pseudo father figure. The film has a feel of always looking at the viewer, while the viewer looks to get inside of the main character’s head. Decorated with symbolism and how hyper-masculinity may just be putting on a daily facade, Moonlight really explores individual intentions when you have to adjust and adapt to survive or the only other choice would be to die if you don’t. Moonlight doesn’t sell the combination of the black man’s plight and the gay struggle, it’s about masculinity and the possibility of divine elements that guide you to the discovery of self.
Even with all black cast, don’t label this as another “decent black movie” that “made it,” but rather an introspective look into another side of the human experience that some may not see often.
I, Elliot Wolf, am a freelance writer, blogger, and obscure interest enthusiast. I believe that great conversation is the cornerstone to connection, and what better way to connect than to leave a comment, question, or concern expressing how you genuinely feel. All of my social media outlets are made available at the click of an icon, don't be a stranger!
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