Moonlight is filled with such rich imagery of dark boys in soft lighting, familial melodies, and tangible exploration into the life of a homosexual, young, black boy. During this trek, the audience is taken on an intimate journey through young Chiron’s trek of self-alienation as he learns of homophobia at school, and sexual repression as he endures years of lonesomeness on the road to masculine identity. This film was originally written as a play, titled, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by the brilliant dramatist, Tarell Alvin McCraney. The play was adapted for the screen by creative genius, Barry Jenkins.
This impressively prolific film is about a black, homosexual boy growing up in Miami in the 1980s. The time period that was deemed the “War on Drugs” era, which greatly impacts the storyline, as the main character, Chiron, has to grapple with the effects of drugs on the people closest to him: his mama, Paula, who smokes crack socially and inevitably begins smoking habitually and Juan, a father-figure yet drug dealer to Chiron’s mama.
The film is dissected into three parts, if you will:
- A soft black boy seeking sun in the dark: Chiron’s curious observance of his sexuality
- An innocent tulip, named Black, dying in the shade: Chiron’s instinctual quest for intimacy and his declaration that he will never be beat again
- A pained nigga wrapped in lilac chiffon: Chiron’s repression of homosexuality in exchange for a life without abandonment
I felt at home just as soon as I heard Boris Gardiner’s “Every N***er is a Star” humming from the speakers, as Juan pulled up in what we southern folk would call a “slab”, or an old-school car pimped out with outrageously sexy paint and big ass rims. I felt an immediate sensation of warmth run through my hands, remembering my childhood infatuation with these type of cars as they swung through my neighborhood (not to mention consistently listening to Goodie Mob’s Cell Therapy, which was featured later in the film, as a kid). The mix of Gardiner’s declarative track with the easy-moving dialogue and camera shots grabbed hold of me with the utmost intensity. The quintessential young, black, male experience is not what I got from Moonlight. Instead there were slivers of black boys from my childhood, stories of brown men from the many books I read as a teenager and lines of pungent poetry reminding me of the 1920s blues circuits.
The beauty of it all reminded of a familial place
– a piece of home.
This story is like a delicate elixir to all the innocent young, black boys dying in the shade, rising from light blue ashes to men of steel and dark blue daylight. Moonlight is healing in ways that most would miss upfront – it’s beauty lies in the small crescents of light that seep through the skin of Black; the empty, yet hopeful countenance of a young lover with no one to love; the small shine of a full-on gold grill peeking from behind Chiron’s lips; the sparkly slab sitting on double-digit rims in the back of a parking lot. The beauty of it all reminded of a familial place – a piece of home.
Honestly, words just won’t do this film ANY justice. As the soul-stirring poet, Nayyirah Waheed, stated, “moonlight is not a film. it is a heaven. go. be altered,” but If I had to sum this masterfully moving film up in one sentence, then it was like a light-pink poem with jarring verbs, unfiltered nouns and tangerine-colored adjectives, prepared to be everything you think it’s not.
an african violet at ya’ backdoor, she is jasmine simone.
jasmine is a contributing writer for SulaCollective and works as a technical writer for Hilton Worldwide Sales. her work is inspired by her experience as a young, black artist from the south. her interests include: women writers/writers of color, any and everything regarding the blues, intersectionality and transgressive art. you can find jasmine’s first published work of poetry, “the beast who treads the earth at night” on amazon.