Moonlight ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp
Moonlight is a modest “art” film that made a big splash and walked away with a ton of awards, including Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards, where La La Land was heavily favored to win but didn’t. Moonlight is an exploration of the life of a young black male named Chiron (pronounced Shy-rone.) We see Chiron as a boy of around nine, then as a teenager in high school, and then as a man in his thirties.
Chiron lives with his troubled mother in a drug-riddled section of Miami. She is alternately loving and frightening and takes Chiron’s money to feed her drug addiction. Chiron has other problems, too, besides his mother: he is perceived as being “different” by his classmates and is bullied and mistreated.
Chiron meets Juan, a drug dealer who, despite his profession, turns out to be a positive male influence in Chiron’s life. Juan and his kind girlfriend, Teresa, befriend Chiron and treat him in a way he is not used to being treated: with kindness and consideration. They feed him and give him a place to stay when he needs time away from his mother and the awful problems in the neighborhood.
When the second act begins, we see Chiron as a high school student, silent and withdrawn, still being bullied in a vicious way. (Chiron exacts revenge upon the most vicious of the bullies in a satisfying way.) Juan, the drug dealer who treated him kindly, is now dead, but Teresa, Juan’s girlfriend, continues to be take an interest in Chiron and help him whenever help is needed.
Besides Juan and Teresa, Chiron has few friends, but there is one boy is own age who stands out from the others. His name is Kevin. He connects with Chiron in a way that nobody else does. After years of friendship, Chiron and Kevin have a brief, unexpected sexual encounter on the beach one night. Kevin shrugs it off, but we know how significant it is to a boy of Chiron’s sensitive nature.
In the third act, Chiron is a self-confident man in his thirties. He has, we assume, buried the difficulties of the past. Now living in Atlanta, he receives an unexpected call from Kevin, whom he hasn’t seen or heard from in more than ten years. Kevin has been in jail and is working as a cook in a restaurant in Miami; he has been married and divorced and is the father of a small son. A few hundred miles separates Kevin and Chiron. Here is the chance for Chiron to connect with the one person in his past he hasn’t been able to put out of his mind.
Moonlight is an effective, memorable story, told in a minimalist style. There’s no razzmatazz, no special effects, no explosions, car chases, boobs, murders, stabbings or fistfights. There’s truth here, pain and hope, always hope, that a terrible life can be made better. Talented filmmakers don’t need a hundred million dollars or more to put an effective story on the screen that audiences can connect with. If talent and creativity are in play, it can be done for a tiny fraction of the cost.
Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp