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Moonlight Movie Review 2017: Meaningful Insights

Moonlight Movie Review

It would be sacrilege to talk casually about a film that comes with eight Oscar nominations and a pile of adulatory reviews.

But the truth is, Moonlight is a beautiful triptych that will touch a chord more in the American viewer than in India. To be marginalized in more ways than one and quiet, hurtful self-discovery may evoke universal emotions. But director Barry Jenkins’ black American growing up in the mean streets of Miami is more personal than universal.

That comment does not in any way take away from an empathetic story that’s filmed in three languorous and lyrical chapters, each named after what the protagonist is called at different stages of his life. Enacted with quiet grace by three different actors, a certain anchorless confusion and the propensity to quietly watch and introspect threads the three chapters. Disquietingly, contradictions abound in everybody. 

A bunch of bullies chases schoolboy Little who has the same color as them but he’s obviously not like the rest of them. The bullies are themselves a part of the marginalized black community but that doesn’t deter them from going after who they perceive as different, soft and ‘little’.

Drug dealer Juan who finds and feeds Little, is surprisingly humane, with a tidy house and a nice, neat girlfriend. He’s the father figure who teaches Little to swim, urges him to stay clean and to slowly find himself, an exercise he shouldn’t allow anyone else to do for him. Never mind if Juan is the dealer who supplies the little boy’s mother with the substance that turns her into a desperate addict.

Very early in life, Little wonders what “faggot” means. It’s Juan who gently tells him that he’s not old enough to know it yet and he may turn out “gay” but certainly not a faggot.

It’s in his adolescence as the much-bullied Chiron that he has his first, and perhaps last gay encounter.    

So that when he’s a full-grown adult, and now called Black, he responds to a call from the past. To go and reconnect with old buddy Kevin. Kevin has always had his own contradictions too – caring in private but ready to bow to peer pressure and bully in public. Ultimately, it’s Chiron who’s stronger, ready to keep getting up and getting hit.

Based on the play ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue’, Jenkins’ Chiron is far from talkative but every chapter is evocative.  

For an elevating film that, however, won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, Moonlight gets a 3* rating.

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