I call this film the gay black panther in that the cast was all African American and that there was a significant gay protagonist.
Movie rating: 9/10. What can I say? The movie was very emotionally touching; I lost count of the times I fought back tears at certain moments. As a coming-of-age film (like Boyhood) it succeeded in being relatable. I am not African American, but being gay and growing up, I do share that part of Chiron’s experience.
Moonlight is about a gay, African American that is brought up in a not so forgiving environment. It is a coming-of-age film and has 3 acts: Little, Chiron, and Black, each of which take are in chronological order from prepubescence, adolescence, to adulthood. The film is not what I expected, as I was expecting the film to go more in-depth about gay black men, both in the black and LGBT community. It was instead much more personal to the character Chiron, highlighting his struggles with his sexual orientation, his ability (lack of) to socialize, and lack of role models. In this, it succeeded in being more relatable, at least to me.
Here’s his life (and the plot) in a nutshell: (Spoilers DUH!)
His mom, Paula, is pretty crap; she is a crackhead throughout, and eventually becomes a prositute. She always manages to say emotionally damaging stuff, and reminds Chiron of how doomed he is when she forcibly takes his money. She only ever makes up for it when Chiron is an adult. Juan is his (kind of) adopted dad. He takes Chiron in after realizing how alone and vulnerable he is. He is only caring to Chiron. He teaches to Chiron a valuable virtue: trust. He does this by teaching Chiron how to swim; as you know, someone who is unable to swim can die, so Chiron being able to trust Juan means a lot. Juan is no doubt a good guy, being both honest, and supportive. In his final scene, Juan is asked by little Chiron what a faggot is. Juan explains to him that it is a derogatory word used against gay people; this is the validation Chiron has needed. We saw his mom in an earlier scene, when Juan caught Paula doing drugs, telling Juan she “knew” why Chiron was bullied. She attributed it to the way he walks – he’s gay. Unfortunately, Chiron asks Juan if he’s a drug dealer, and if so, did he give drugs to his mother? In this powerful scene, he reluctantly answers yes to both, with Chiron leaving. Unfortunately later on, Juan dies; far too early. This leaves Chiron alone with Juan’s girlfriend Teresa, who at least is better than Paula.
Then there’s Kevin, Chiron’s one, true friend. Kevin in the beginning has armed Chiron on how to fight back against bullies, since Kevin notices that Chiron is too easy to pick on. They”fight”, though it’s intimate in a childish way. This already leaves an impression that Kevin and Chiron are best friends forever. In act II, Kevin and Chiron are in that stage of adolescence where everything is about sex; Chiron left to pander the heterosexuality of everyone, including his friend Kevin. Kevin had “bragged” about him going to detention because he was caught fucking some girl. Chiron briefly “fantasizes” about Kevin and his girl having sex; with Chiron visually being invited by Kevin.
Soon thereafter, Kevin meets Chiron at a beach in the evening. They smoke a blunt, discuss their ambitions (and the nickname Kevin gave Chiron – Black). Then, their bromance finally shows itself. Kevin and Chiron kiss, finishing with Kevin giving Chiron a handjob. However, this soon goes to shit. Kevin is seen talking to the primary school bully, Terrell. First of all, he knows Terrell is a shit bag. Second, he allows Terrell to manipulate him to hurt Chiron. In a painful scene, we see Chiron repeatedly getting back up after Kevin punches him reluctantly. Terrell and other shit stains continue to beat up Chiron even further anyway; with Kevin gaining absolutely nothing from this. Days later, after Chiron confusingly doesn’t give up the bullies, goes to class and breaks a chair over Terrell’s head.
In Act III, we see J̶u̶a̶n̶ an adult Chiron. He has a similar appearance to Juan, with his car, gold teeth, and a gold necklace. He is also a drug dealer, and is quite ripped. Chiron still sees his mom, though this time, she is in a facility in which it is apparent she is no longer on drugs and a prostitute. Suddenly, in a later scene, Chiron gets a call, and picks up, expecting his mom. He is instead surprised to the voice of his now estranged friend, Kevin. They play some catch-up and Kevin somewhat apologizes. Chiron travels to Miami and visits Kevin’s workplace (a cute little restaurant). Kevin finally notices that Chiron just came in, and makes him a dinner and converses with him throughout. After discussing their life, the two go to back to Kevin’s place. They get intimate once more; Chiron reveals how Kevin was the only person in his life he’s felt this way to. They are sad happy. The movie ends with a final, but powerful scene of a young Chiron with moonlight shining on his face.