….Or the movie that almost shut this blog down.
When I saw Moonlight, the Chicago Cubs had not won the World Series. October 31st, 2016 was a brisk night, and the Cubs were down in the series 3-2 to the Cleveland Indians (spoiler, the Cubs won).
However, for once during that series, baseball was not cornering my conscious. Instead, Moonlight. The movie details the life of ‘Little,’ who is played by three different actors, in three different portions of his life, in three sections of the film.
The film, and its story, permeated so deeply that I questioned what I saw. I knew the film, starred three different actors in the role of Little/Chiron/Black (Trevante Rhodes/Ashton Sanders/Alex Hibbert). I knew, Mahershala Ali (Juan) played a drug kingpin who mentors ‘Little.’ I saw how Naomie Harris (Paula), ‘Little’s’ mom, a crack addict, received drugs from the person closest to her son’s heart. And I saw ‘Little’s’ best friend, Kevin (Andre Holland/Jharrel Jerome/Jaden Piner). While the cliches of urban decay were present and set, something else happened. Moonlight.
In the moonlight, night isn’t dark. It is dark, and bright, at once. Shades. People are much the same way. When the audience is introduced to Juan, he is shown to be a drug kingpin, moving from corner-to-corner collecting his profits. Along with judgmental baggage from the audience, Juan is initially rendered static. However, as he saves ‘Little’ from a squalor, moonlight occurs. Juan has a girlfriend, Janelle Monáe (Teresa), a clean home, and gives ‘Little’ parental advice. He is not the devil incarnate, or the snapshot shown on the local news. He’s a person. Intelligent, caring, suave, wise, as he rolls his toothpick in his mouth.
‘Little’ is also trapped between the shades. ‘Little,’ now going by ‘Chiron’in his teen years, has a crack addict mother who cares more about her next score, than loving her son. He is trapped in his environment. Trapped by the definition of a ‘man.’ Throughout his life, he is bullied for reasons unknown to him. He does not fit his environment. He does not fit a ‘man.’ In each passage of his life. His adolescent years. His teens years. His adult years. He is accompanied by his best friend, Kevin. In their teens, both find themselves underneath the moon, on a beach, taking drags, contemplating what it means to love. Neither are able to answer that ‘basic’ human question. Both are emotional explorers, who’ve yet to explore themselves.
Later, as ‘Chiron’ becomes ‘Black,’ dressed more as the person Juan was, he is trying to fit into his ‘environment.’ He may ride the slick car, pump trap over subs, and wear gold teeth, but inside, he’s the awkward, ‘Little.’ Too uncomfortable to sexually think about women. He is awakened when he receives a call from Kevin. In the pitch black of his apartment, when the phone vibrates, and Kevin is on the other end, ‘Little’ re-emerges.
Moonlight isn’t a film about drugs, the dealers, the takers, poverty, masculinity. It’s the shades in-between. Can you run from who you are? Or can you hide in the shade beneath the moonlight? As much as ‘Little’ wants to be someone else. Be somewhere else. With someone else. He can’t. And as much as his world does not accept him. His neighborhood not accept him. His mother not accept him. He is left to be held by the one person who will take him. The one person who will occupy the grey with him. The only person….
Check out my previous review of Supersonic.