“Who is you, Chiron?”
I would imagine that this may seem a strange inclusion in the month of happy. This film isn’t exactly light fare.
But after watching Moonlight for the second time, the best word to describe the mix of feelings it leaves me with is joy, followed quickly by hope.
For one, its beauty is inspiring. There is no aspect of this film that isn’t beautiful. The screenplay is beautiful, the score is beautiful, the camera work is beautiful, the themes are beautiful, the characters are beautiful. Every actor in the film manages to imbue each character with an amazing humanity and depth, which is especially impressive in light of the fact that only one cast member appears in all three parts of the film.
Moonlight is remarkable and joyful in many ways, it certainly deserves more than this stream-of-consciousness blog response. But, all the same, I wanted to share something that struck me on my second viewing.
This film– in addition to all the huge things it portrays in terms of race, sexuality, and identity — quietly illustrates the immense significance of kindness and hospitality.
The most poignantly hopeful scenes in Moonlight all take place when characters are creating space for each other in small and extraordinary ways.
**Spoilers and whatnot**
As these characters provide a meal, offer a ride, light a cigarette, share a table, make a bed, create a nickname, make a cup of tea, teach a child to swim — as they offer the gifts of touch, warmth, and home, they save a life and create room for a man as he continues the struggle to find himself and feel at home in his own body.
Take the scenes in the film set at tables. These alone are enough to illustrate my point.
With a glaring exception in the center of the film — in the cafeteria when Kevin is goaded into assaulting Chiron — every other scene in which characters share a table with each other is a scene when characters are fighting for Chiron, making room for him in the world.
In a perfect film, which I’d argue this one is, we’re rewarded for paying attention. Director Barry Jenkins doesn’t waste a single gesture or camera movement, every frame plays to the larger story.
Chiron is an easy character to love, but his world is forcefully telling him the opposite.
Again and again, we see characters share various tables with Chiron. They serve him food, juice, water, and wine. They talk and listen, they attempt to coax him out of hiding and toward himself. There’s more to unpack there, but I’m not entirely sure how to do it without a video essay. In part because so much is expressed in the performances.
This film is obviously about much more than this idea of the importance of creating space for people. It would take dozens of blog posts and essays to even scratch the surface. Yet, while every scene is about much more than this, they are certainly not about less.
Moonlight makes me happy. In part, because it helps me believe that there is some hope for us, if perhaps only in the small moments and kindnesses we share with those around us.
I’d love to continue fleshing out more thoughts about this movie in conversation if anyone is interested, but as I’ve learned talking to Emily about it earlier today, I can’t promise not to cry in the process.