Last Updated 05 Nov 2022

A Critique of Moonlight, a Film by Barry Jenkins

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One of the best movies of 2016, Moonlight documents the story of a pitiable lonely black child growing up. The movie was well made and the actors conveyed many delicate emotions, which gave me much to contemplate. I first watched the movie in class and watched it again alone three times, trying to catch the minor details that I had missed the first time. Among many things that interested me, how Chiron built his identity as he grew up affected me the most. I realized that childhood is a time when humans form the central elements of their identities.

“At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you're going to be. Can't let nobody make that decision for you.” Juan says this to Chiron in the scene where he takes Chiron to a beach, meaning that one can choose what he/she wants to be. On the other hand, there are also things that determines your future and identity. Little, who later becomes Chiron and then Black, also had few factors in childhood that had huge impact on building his identity. We can define Chiron's identity or characteristics with three main points. First, he is gay; second, a drug dealer; and third, vulnerable despite his appearance.

It is not difficult for viewers to notice Chiron's sexuality. However, I wa emphasize incidents and factors that made Chiron a homosexual. Unlike some homosexuals who were born that way, I suppose that in Chiron's case, Juan and Kevin had big influence making him gay. Juan and Little meet as Juan broke the door of the place where Little was hiding from his friends. It is most likely that it was first time that Chiron felt such warmth from a person when Juan found Little and brought him to his house. After the first meeting, Juan took Little to few places and they become close. Another person and the only friend that Little got affection from is Kevin.

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In the scene where Kevin and Chiron wrestle, we can notice the subtle sentiment between them. In this incident, Chiron might have misunderstood his feeling for Kevin. If Chiron had grew up in normal environment, it is too much to say that he became because of guys being nice to him. However, he was so alone. Even a small attention and affection meant a lot to him. If a girl had been the first person to give him affection, he might not have been gay. I could see the how Chiron thinks of Kevin at the end of the movie when Chiron says “You are the last man who touched me. I have never been touched anyone since” This scene also makes me think “Is Chiron not a gay but just loving Kevin?” However Black is still close to homosexual rather than heterosexual. Through this, I learned that one's sexual identity can be derived from who gives you an affection in childhood.

The character's second identity as Black is as a drug dealer. Chiron was undoubtedly innocent in every way as a child. He hated that his mother was addicted to drugs and he suffered because of this. Even though the movie never shows us how he thinks about drugs, we can assume that he hates drugs because they made his childhood more difficult. The scene when Juan sees Little's mother in his drug selling area was irony. However, as Chiron becomes Black, he eventually becomes a drug dealer. Life does not always go the way we want it to, however becoming a drug dealer is a huge tragedy for him after all the incidents he had in his childhood. The closest adults to him, his mother and Juan; who somewhat took a role as his father were all related to drugs. Even though there was another reason why Black became a drug dealer, those two adults must have impacted him. Children tend to imitate the adults around them, even if it is a bad thing, and even if the child acknowledges that it is a bad thing.

Finally, deep inside, Chiron is delicate and vulnerable. Black has a big muscular body and he wears golden teeth, making him look tough. However, this is just his appearance, which projects a cool, tough image, as if he has no scars inside him. He still dreams about his mother yelling at him; and wakes up in a sweat. At the beginning of the movie, we could not hear the yelling sound Paula. However when Black dreamed about that moment, we could clearly hear the awful sound, meaning that he is still surfing from his past. We could guess that he tries not to think about his awful past, but his experiences continue to appear in his head. Even though he made himself look like a mighty man, his eyes still carry an emotional look and we can see a wounded child in them. These the memories of his childhood, which was full of being bullied by his colleague, keep his vulnerabilities deep inside in him.

Identity is not a thing that can be built in a short period of time. It is rather a long process through life and one can continuously change his/her identity. Yet, we should never devalue the fact that childhood has huge impact on one's entire life. In the last scene of the movie, Little turns around in the ocean, painted with blue. This scene represents lots of things and it is opened. It seems to me that Little is always inside Black, keep reminding him of his childhood and still in blue background, building his identity. Chiron's surroundings and experiences in his childhood exemplify this: they made him who he is in adulthood.

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