As a writer, I find inspiration in every aspect of life. It shines brightly in people, places, conversations, arguments drifting on the wind, books on my Kindle Fire, blog posts, family get-togethers, poetry, print media, and, of course, movies. Recently, I discovered inspiration in the sheer fact that writer/actor Tarell Alvin McCraney conceived of a story that would touch others in the telling of a young Black man’s coming-of-age story and that writer/director Barry Jenkins would then be inspired to write the screenplay for the movie, Moonlight.
Truly, the movie deserved the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture.
If you haven’t seen it, see it. At this writing, I have enjoyed it twice and will view it again, when beloved friends who haven’t seen it visit. The narrative touches places deep within me, misting my heart and sending ripples across my soul. Why?
There are any number of reasons. The acting is superb. The beauty and skill in the directing sparkle. The filming locations are memorable, along with the soul-stirring music. Vivacity in the colors dazzle. Even the editing is laudable. My heart bows to all of the people who came together to bring this story to the Silver Screen, for it is beyond time that great stories offering up a character who happens to be gay take their place in the Best Motion Picture line-up. A film with the capacity to linger in my natural coils long after the credits rise remains with me to satiate my senses with possibility, renewal, delight, fierceness and love.
Moonlight chronicles Chiron’s coming of age through three significant chapters of his life. As “Little,” we see him being bullied by several boys who chase him into an abandoned house. Alex R. Hibbert gives a heart-warming performance bringing to life the loneliness and isolation a child with a drug-addicted mother faces. But early on, we see how the love of a community that reels under drug abuse can spring up to pull nailed boards from the abandoned house in which the child hides. We see Juan nurture the terrorized child and bring him home to a safe, clean kitchen in which he finds love and succor. Mahershala Ali (Juan) is one of the best on-screen images of a father figure I have seen in a long time.
Ashton Sanders, teenage “Chiron,” renders an emotionally charged performance of a victimized young man struggling with identity issues and his yet addicted mother. Although he finds comfort and safety in Juan and Teresa’s (Janelle Monae) home, they cannot protect him in a vicious circle of stomping male classmates who persist on decimating him because he is gay. But he fights back. Not to be too much of a spoiler, I will leave that powerful scene a mystery.
Later, able to define himself for himself, Trevante Rhodes, now known as “Black,” an intense soul with a soft though hidden heart, has learned to make his way in the world. He has learned from Juan. His heart has softened in Teresa’s warmth. And although life lands him in a place, where most of us never wish to be, he rises like a beautiful black Phoenix, molded in fire yet more fabulous than when the flames first licked him.
The scene that lingers in my heart is the one in which “Black” and his childhood friend Kevin reunite after years of culling their own way separately; one incarcerated, the other coming into his own after incarceration. It is soft. Vulnerable. Tender. The music, Barbara Lewis’ “Hello, Stranger,” yet takes my breath away. In an instant, time is effaced. Everything the two felt years ago on a moonlit beach floods back to wash me soft in a sensual revelry…and I am satisfied. Cinematically.
And it all begins with an idea, a story and the power of words.
~ Reviewed by Claudia Moss
Tarell Alvin McCraney and Barry Jenkins