Focusing on a painful American reality, this multi-award nominated and Oscar winning film spotlights attitudes toward race and sexuality in a turbulent era where acceptance and rejection are shaking society’s established traditions. It waves a black flag proudly, expounding on gay masculinity.
The source of the narrative is the play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” showcasing three stages in the life of Chiron from a nine-year-old to adulthood. As a child he is relentlessly bullied at school in the Afro-American neighbourhood of Miami. Befriended by a local drug dealer Jean and his girlfriend Teresa, Chiron finds shelter in their home. It’s also a refuge from his mother Paula (Naomie Harris in a sharply etched performance), a drug addicted nurse who administers equal amounts of overbearing affection as well as abusive neglect to her withdrawn and lonely child.
Chiron senses strange physical feelings he cannot summarize which are apparent to the boys at school who constantly taunt him with references suggesting he’s a “faggot.” In a strongly sculpted scene, Chiron asks Jean and Teresa what the word means, and wonders if he might be one.
By his teenage years, Chiron has insulated himself by downplaying his sexuality from the curiosity of friends, acquiantances and the school bullies, gradually building a tough outer veneer. Despite this protection he is still plauged by insecurities about his true identity as the verbal indignities continue. He’s a loner against the world fueled by sexual uncertainty and struggling to face the reality of who he is.
Director Barry Jenkins has an artistic winner in bringing intelligence and understanding to the difficult subject matter of being Black and gay. Chiron’s search for identity avoids falling into the abyss of despair. Instead it poses a challenge for viewers to redefine their personal thoughts about race and sexuality. Chiron is virtually a prisoner of locked up emotions. Jenkins film unlocks it for us.
Nominated in six 2017 Golden Globe categories, “Moonlight” was voted Best Picture. The film also scored eight 2017 Oscar nominations, winning the Best Picture award.