Why "Moonlight" Is the Movie of Our Generation
From Barry Jenkins, A Story About Love, Identity and the Human Condition
In the 21st century, movies are filled with generous budgets, mind-blowing special effects and large ensemble casts in order to win at the box office and garner awards. Jenkins managed to do all this with a simple story and a modest cast. He put aside the traditional movie recipe and instead decided to confront a relevant issue we all face with powerful performances and captivating storytelling. The issue and story you ask? This is only the introduction, please follow below!
Mahershala Ali as Juan
Story and Relatable Characters
A truly lasting and memorable movie is one where we can empathize with the characters and relate to their struggles. Throughout the movie, we follow our protagonist, Chiron or Little, through three different stages of his life as he battles coming to terms with his sexual orientation, abuse and the effects these have through his childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
Now these may be themes you can or cannot relate to, but what is the larger message Moonlight and Barry Jenkins are trying to communicate? It is a story about finding yourself, finding that others don't necessarily approve or understand, and finding some way to be yourself while also saving yourself. That is something everyone has faced, even yours truly as I write this article.
Moonlight is relevant now, more than ever. These are uncertain times we face in the world, whether it be through discrimination or any kind to bullying in the school system. A "Little" individuality and sense of self may be exactly what we need.
Casting and Performances
A movie can have a perfect script on paper (literally), but it takes a visionary director and cast to bring it to life. Spoiler alert; Moonlight has both. The entire cast was applauded for their commitment, with a particular focus on Mahershala Ali as Juan and Trevante Rhodes as Black, portraying Chiron in his adult years.
Ali enters Chiron's life when he is a child struggling with his sexual orientation and the abuse he receives from children at his school. Ali's character helps him come to terms with his identity in a way that allows him to accept who he is and distinguish that the abuse is not a deserved punishment, but a misunderstood impulse. Ali won multiple awards for his performance with the culmination in the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. This also made him the first Muslim actor to win the Oscar. One can argue that Ali himself became a champion for maintaining your sense of self and identity in this regard and he did it in half an hour of screen time. Ali is iconic in less than 30 minutes.
Rhodes himself brought a truly inspiring performance as adult Chiron dealing with the trauma of his childhood, a drug addicted mother and using the guidance from Juan. When I was watching the movie, I had to constantly remind myself that there were three different actors portraying Chiron and not the use of time travel. I say this because Rhodes managed to carry the story and experiences of the two previous life stages as if he had actually lived them. The critical success of the movie was attributed to his performance and numerous accolades as a breakout actor.
Rhodes as Black
A Love Letter to the 21st Century
In the years to come, the movies with high speed car chases, broody vampires, and an assortment of romantic comedies will be forgotten, but not Moonlight. Why you ask is this movie timeless? Moonlight is relevant. In our world, people face adversity and criticism for being who they are and this is not only limited to the LGBTQ community. We all face it and we need to be reminded of our own strength. Strength as individuals and strength as a people. Barry Jenkins has provided this letter. A letter, so to speak, read to us by himself, through the characters he willed into existence. It is easy to see why he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Face it, we need directors like Barry Jenkins.
People face adversity in life every day, they take the role of Chiron. We are faced with the choice to either be the antagonists or we can take the role of Juan and maybe even win an Oscar. Well, not an actual Oscar, but you know what I mean. The bottom line is choice. A choice to be who you are with no fear and no apologies.
Jenkins During His Oscar Acceptance Speech
In the clear moonlight...
If you have made it to the end of this article and still need clarity, Moonlight will go down as one of the greatest movies of our generation and will remain timeless and relevant.
As for me, I am off for a night swim to see things as different colours in the clear moonlight. See what I did there?
© 2018 Kedan Pentia