2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

My name is Chiron, people call me Little.

Life is a journey of self-discovery. Much of it is defined by the people and situations that are apart of this exploration. Moonlight highlights the extremes of life for a child who is the product of an exceptionally harsh environment. Chiron is the son of a crack-addicted mother. He is shy and withdrawn because his small stature, living in the housing projects of Miami and throughout his life, he is struggling with his sexual orientation. It is an understatement that his journey is plagued with challenges. When his only role-model is the local drug dealer and his best friend manipulates him at every turn, it is a miracle this young man survives adolescence, much less his teens. Being the target of constant and brutal bullying, he must determine what he will do with his life.

Moonlight should draw anyone out to the theatres purely for the sake of analysing groundbreaking cinema. Some may credit the awards buzz around the film to the content, but the first thing anyone should take into consideration is the directorial style of Barry Jenkins. The use of camera angles and non-linear storytelling provide a remarkable visual experience. He delivers a filming journey that puts the audience squarely in the middle of Chiron’s life. He provides three distinct chapters of this child’s life and shows the impact of bullying throughout childhood. This immersive cinematic reality should be studied and celebrated.

The emotional-charged filming style of Jenkins has been a catalyst to the success of the film, but the acting performances are what carry things through. This young director shows exceptional maturity in his ability to draw great work from both his lead actors and the young, unknown talent. Mahershala Ali (Hidden Figures) and Naomi Harris (Spectre) were given some of the best roles of their careers and they capitalise on each scene provided to them. Harris was only given three days to work through the progressive deterioration of Chiron’s drug-addicted mother and shows her acting depth and range.

The heart-watching performance proved to be both physically and emotionally demanding. Both Ali and Harris should receive credit for their on-screen work, but the weight of the film is left to the three young actors who play Chiron. The acting trio of Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes all manage to convey the despair and confusion of this bullied young man. The actors do not necessarily resemble one another, but the challenges of a character’s life can justify the differences in their appearance. Out of the three, Sanders provides the stand out performance as the awkward teen in this brutal atmosphere.

With all that there is to celebrate from the acting and the cutting edge direction, the film will be remembered for the content of Chiron’s sexual identity. A topic that may be uncomfortable for some, but needs to be addressed in this modern-day context. Chiron seeks counsel on this penal area of his life, but without the proper support he flounders from adolescence to adulthood. Included in this discussion, Moonlight shows the importance of family and the influence it can have on confronting the issues surrounding bullying. It should challenge every parent to know how to have a conversation about sexual orientation and to be aware of the signs of bullying that can occur in every child’s life. This confronting biographical sketch of this young man’s life is severe, heart-breaking and brings forward deeper questions for mature audiences to consider.

REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

  1. What is the value of family? (Genesis 2:24, Exodus 20:12, Psalm 22:6, John 15:12-17)
  2. Why are fathers important in the lives of their children? (Psalm 103:13, 127:3-5, Titus 2:1-15)
  3. What does the Bible have to say about homosexuality? (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:10)
  4. What does the Bible have to say about bullying? (Matthew 5:43-48, Romans 12:9-10, 1 John 3:5)