Moonlight. Obtained from: China Film Insider

Pain, Warmth, and Love in Growth — Reflection on Moonlight

As a movie awarded with Oscar, Moonlight has received huge attention and critiques. Compared with its competitor, “La La Land,” Moonlight is like a dark horse. Some people criticized that Oscar is partial to the movie based on people of color and LGBTQ. This is a combination of the two, so its success implies the “political correctness” of Oscar (Carson, T, 2017). However, Moonlight has proved that it won just because it is a beautiful movie.

Moonlight. Obtained from: Vox

The film was divided into three plots: Little, Chiron, and Black. In the beginning, Chiron was chased and bullied by some kids. Those kids called him with insulative words and threw stones toward him. At that time, Juan, a robust black adult saved Chiron and fed him. Juan’s partner, Teresa, even allowed Chiron to stay in their home. With the development of the film, the audience can view the poor condition of Chiron. His father is gone, and his mother abuses drugs. Therefore, her emotion fluctuates intensively and usually forgot what she had done on Chiron. Even if life is hard, Chiron has a friend, Kevin. At that time, Chiron had a nickname, “Little,” which is also the name of that plot. He would become the root of fortune and misfortune in Chiron’s life. When Chiron became a teenager, he was still slim and bullied by his classmates. His mother might abuse drugs more severely, even ask Chiron for money that Teresa gave him. During that period, Chiron realized his sexual orientation and developed a subtle relationship with Kevin. However, their life has been broken by the bad boys. At the end of the second plot, Chiron chose to fight back. The result is the policemen caught him.

Years later, Chiron had become as strong as Juan, the man at the beginning of the film. His golden chain, automobile, and headband have implicated his identity in that area. This is also mentioned in his narration later. Sometimes he wakes up due to a nightmare. Chiron cannot refuse to visit his mother after she had asked multiple times. His mom confessed to her regret and love Chiron. Then, he visited Kevin. Both of them were slightly awkward since time has estranged them. Kevin was extremely surprised when he knew that Chiron was “trapping.” While in the end, Chiron slept in the arm of Kevin. All of their love, arguments, and struggles seem to be a dream of Chiron.

This film touches people not because it is agitative but because it is real. As Carol Thomas mentioned, inequality is still prevailing. The people at the intersection of multiple disadvantages are being mistreated. (Thomas, C, 2000) Thomas used the example of disabled females since female and disabled people are being regarded as “disadvantageous”. Similarly, the protagonist in this film, Chiron, is also in the intersection. He was a black homosexual person and born in an incomplete family. All these factors have made him feel alienated from the world. This discrimination can be trivial, but the accumulated effect would be huge. Kevin, as well as a colored person, called Chiron “Black” since he was more comfortable with his skin color. The officer, as well as a black female, did not care about Chiron’s injury when he was beaten but taught him to “stand up” strictly. Neither being black or being homosexual is sinful, but people who are not black or gay would be more regular. Consequently, “normal people” would take an advantageous place in society and hold power. Sometimes the trauma cannot be realized by ordinary people, but the hurt is inerasable for those who are not.

A Scenario of Paula. By Naomie Harris. From Moonlight

Also, it can be viewed that Chiron had not to get rid of some people in his whole life. The most important person should be his mother, Paula. As mentioned before, Chiron’s original family was incomplete. This female was suppressed by the economic burdens and must take care of Chiron all by herself. When Juan brought Chiron back, she was not grateful but showed enmity. On the one hand, she was apprehensive about Chiron; on the other hand, it might be a hint that her emotion can change significantly and cannot remember what she had done on Chiron. Plus, according to her dialogue with Juan, she was engaged in sexual trading. The distorted environment might have influenced Chiron’s personality, too. When she confessed her love for Chiron as an older person, Chiron’s life had started again.

Teresa and Chiron. Obtained from Moonlight

On the contrary, Teresa was always more like a mother for Chiron. It seems that Teresa had a more decent job than Chiron’s mother and can still give Chiron money. Teresa was optimistic in front of Chiron and did not abuse drugs, either. These factors had empowered Chiron, but also had caused Paula’s jealous possibly. However, this female’s life is still a mystery for audiences, since there were no shots for her or Juan in the end. As for Juan, the man who comforted little Chiron, she had a more complex background. Juan was integral and friendly. He taught Chiron swim and explained “faggot” in an innocent way, but he was a drug dealer. This character is not only the comforter of Chiron but also a metaphor for little Chiron’s destiny.

Kevin. Obtained from: GQ.com

If Juan had instructed Chiron’s life, another man, Kevin, had completed Chiron’s life. They were friends since childhood and even developed love as teenagers. The tragic experience had separated them for a long time. When they reunited after a long farewell, Chiron admitted that Kevin was the only man who touched him. Nevertheless, the conditions of the two men are strong comparisons. Chiron had become a black man who is trapping around. He never fell in love again, while Kevin move toward another direction and even had a baby. Although the relationship between them is doomed, staying with Kevin has already been a great comfort for Chiron.

The director, Barry Jenkins, as well as the screenplay, did an amazing job of capturing people’s emotions with video cameras. The first shot in which the camera was rotating around the people was stunning. First, it would emphasize the contrast of power between Juan and another person, which indicated his status in that area. Also, this method would leave a strong impression of Juan in the audiences’ minds. Besides the film shots, Barry is really good at applying color to reflect the characters’ emotions. When Chiron was staying with Juan on the beach, the brilliant sunshine is a reflection of Chiron’s sentiment. Likewise, the soft yellow light in Juan’s home looks more like a home compared with Chiron’s house. While the colors associated with Paula, Chiron’s mother, usually invoke negative thoughts of audiences. For example, the light in Paula’s room is dim scarlet. And she was wearing a bright red skirt when met with Juan at night. These factors had indicated her identity, as well as her tragic experience. According to Leonard, red and deem background is a sexual hint, and it would make females more attractive in front of men. (Peperkoorn, Leonard S., et al., 2016)

Juan and Chiron. Obtained from: Chicagoreader.com

What’s more, as Laxton, the cinematographer of Moonlight, disclosed, they adopted sharp color contrast and color grade to highlight the dark skin of characters in this film. (Chris, 2016) According to Laxton, it is not only a method to deal with the sunshine of Miami, the background of this story. But also a strategy to emphasize the skin tone of characters in this movie. Moreover, there is one added color in this movie: blue. The secret of “moonlight” was revealed by Juan on a sunny day on the beach. But neither Chiron nor audiences understand the deeper meaning in the end. On the one hand, “blue” is the primary emotion that ran throughout this movie; on the other hand, blue is a reflection of Juan and Chiron’s relationship. Juan told Chiron that there are black people all around the world; they are even the center of the world. In the end, Chiron confessed, “I ain’t trying to be nothing else.” It is also an implication that Chiron had accepted his identity.

To conclude, Moonlight is a film about black LGBTQ people. It involved races, classes, and sex. However, it is never a simple “politically correct” film. As mentioned, it unveiled the real-life and growth process of a black man, or to say, the real-life of a crowd of black people in this world. The characters suffered a broken family, school bully, and sexual orientation crisis as well as discrimination. However, there are also inspirations and kindness in his life. Moonlight also invoked audiences’ reflection on the unequal treatments and power distribution in daily life. Moreover, the aesthetic value of Moonlight is excellent. The direction, Barry, and the cinematographer, Laxton, did excellent work on narrating and applying color. The audience can feel the intense emotional transition, even if the characters are saying nothing. In a word, Moonlight deserves its award, and the social problems deserve more attention.

Reference:

Thomas, C. (2000) “Medicine, Gender, and Disability: Disabled Women’s Health Care Encounters.” Health Care for Women International, vol. 22, no. 3, 2001, pp. 245–262.

Peperkoorn, Leonard S., et al. “Revisiting the Red Effect on Attractiveness and Sexual Receptivity: No Effect of the Color Red on Human Mate Preferences.” Evolutionary Psychology, Dec. 2016, doi:10.1177/1474704916673841.

Chris, ‘Moonlight’ Glow: Creating the Bold Color and Contrast of Barry Jenkins’ Emotional Landscape, Indiewire. Retrieved from:

https://www.indiewire.com/2016/10/moonlight-cinematography-color-barry-jenkins-james-laxton-alex-bickel-1201740402/

Undergraduate student / Research assistant/ Always curious / Opinions are mine

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