If I told you that this film was about a gay man from the Miami housing projects, his drug addicted mother and his friendship with a local drug dealer what would you expect? Dark imagery, gratuitous scenes of sex, drug abuse and violence? Probably. However this film is not typical or is it stereotypical of the people it depicts. Instead it is a beautifully shot, delicate, very thoughtful and thought provoking look at sexuality, masculinity and the moments that shape us.
Based on the semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin Mccraney it explores the coming of age of Chiron in three acts as he progresses towards adulthood. His mother, played by Naomi Harris, is addicted to crack and through this neglect he meets and befriends local drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali). Chiron is an outsider, he is chased by local boys in the film’s opening and viciously bullied as a teenager and although he grows into a muscled adult who can defend himself he is vulnerable throughout.
The most explicit scene in this film is between a man and a women yet the film explores gay masculinity and sexuality. It does this through inference, using gesture codes and sound in a way which is sensitive and sincere.
The cinematography in Moonlight is beautiful. The frames are filled with colour and light which reminds the audience that this story unfolds in sunny Miami and the shot types and angles capture the characters’ emotions, vulnerability and point of view.
I went to see the film at the Ritzy in Brixton with my sister, who, as I am, is full of praise for this artistic piece of moving image. After the film there was a Q & A with the director Barry Jenkins, who says that he was given full artistic freedom on the film, and playwright Tarell Alvin Mccraney. Here is an extract from the discussion.