Moonlight, movie revie

“Moonlight”: a tough coming-of-age drama, spanning decades, of a black gay man in Miami everglades

Name:  “Moonlight”

Director, writer: Barry Jenkins (written, directed)

Released: 2016/10 (after Telluride)

Format: 2.35:1

When and how viewed:          Angelika Mosaic, 2016/10/30, late PM, small audience

Length 111

Rating R


“Moonlight” is a tough coming-of-age story of a young black man in the ramshackle tenements of suburban Miami.

It’s in three parts (“Little”, “Chiron”, “Black”) with a different actor playing the boy (Alex Hilbert), teen (Ashton Sanders) and grown man (Trevante Rhodes).

In the opening, a crack dealer (Mahershala Ali) rescues the boy and becomes a father figure, as the film then explores the boy’s relationship with the drug-addicted mother.

As a teen, Chiron is bullied, and in one scene he asks his de facto parents what a “faggot” is.  Eventually, he becomes intimate “On the Beach” and “In the Moonlight” with Kevin (Jharrel Jerome).  The film has a couple classroom scenes, one where the biology teacher is trying to educate the kids about AIDS, and another where the teacher has to control a fight started by Chiron getting back at the bullies.

In the final part, Chiron is a hardened adult in the “Scarface” world of south Florida.  He wears an artificial denture resembling “Jaws” in the Bond movies.  But he reunites, at least in deep friendship, with Kevin.

The film confronts the gentrified viewer with the harsh reality of growing up in the drug-infested housing projects, where drug dealing is almost the entire economy.  Chiron tries to become as good a person as possible given the circumstances of his rearing.

The plot structure, of resuming a relationship that had started earlier, resembles that of “Lazy Eye” (Oct. 27) and even occurs in Dan Blatt’s novel “Calypso’s Cave” which I read a draft of in 1997 (discussion) — would make a nice indie film if it got made.

In August 1986, when on vacation in a rent car, I visited Belle Glade, FL a migrant labor town on the shore of Lake Okeechobee, which had become a small epicenter for AIDS.  A car followed me out of town back to West Palm Beach.  It was bizarre.

I have to say that the “Moonlight” metaphor title hooks up with Reid Ewing’s song “In the Moonlight (Do Me)” from Modern Family. No, it’s not used but it could have been.  There is a lot of interesting African string music, but also a Mozart excerpt.

(Posted: Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016 at 10 PM EDT)