Moonlight: Sensitive, Nuanced & Biased

Film: Moonlight

Cast: Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, Jharrel Jerome, Jhaden Puner, Mahershala Ali, Naomi Harris, Janelle Monae

Director-Writer: Barry Jenkins

In ancient Greece, homosexuals held the numero uno position in society. Women and slaves were deemed soulless creatures. Homosexuals are now experiencing what other minorities always have.

Moonlight is a sensitive portrayal of what it means to be an African-American gay in America. In Barry Jenkins’s narrative, the story plays out in three stages of the life of the central character Chiron, starting from a dysfunctional childhood in Miami, where he is bullied by school kids and hated by his drug-addicted mother (Naomie Harris). In this phase one titled Little after a nickname bestowed by cruel classmates, the boy (Alex Hibbert) is helped by drug dealer Juan (Mahershala “House of Cards” Ali) and his girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monae) Little’s best and only friend is Kevin (Jaden Piner).

The second stage covers the protagonist’s teen years; Chiron (now played by Ashton Sanders) loves Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) who may or may not be a bi-sexual. A violent incident in the classroom separates the friends. Chiron is jailed. In phase 3, the adult Chiron (now played by Trevante Rhodes ) is vastly different from the victim of the past.

At least, externally. In this segment, titled Black, Chiron is a muscular pusher with a penchant for metal braces. In his soul, Chiron feels emptiness. He lives in a grim life in Atlanta until a phone call from now married Kevin sets him on the road for a reunion of sorts.

Jenkins deals with homosexual relationships in a thoughtful, exquisitely nuanced way; emphasising deep affection and ignoring the shallow lust that gays in real life (never mind non-gays) revel in and celebrate, candidly. In Jenkins’ poignant narrative, there is only one side you can empathise with. I am not a carping critic and this is not a sweeping statement. Only the stone-hearted will be immune to poor Chiron’s plight. After all, gays are God’s children too. But ethics demands clarity, honesty, truth and truth-telling. Sadly, as in Brokeback Mountain, Moonlight ignores the adverse effects of sodomy which is detrimental to the health of both gays and heterosexuals. Certainly, Moonlight deserves its Oscar nominations but it ought to have sounded a cautionary health warning.

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