Moonlight is about a character I’ve never seen in a movie—a gay thug who is big, bad, and scary, but who expresses his feelings. Instead of a monster, the movie shows a drug dealer as a human being.
His name is Chiron, and he lives in a poor part of Miami, Florida. The movie is divided into three chapters: In the first chapter, he’s about 9, and getting bullied and called “f–got.” An older drug dealer named Juan takes him to his home, where Juan’s wife Teresa cooks for him. Later we find out Juan has sold drugs to Chiron’s mom, Paula.
In the second chapter, Chiron is a teenager and still getting bullied. His mother’s drug problem is much worse, and we realize she’s prostituting for drugs—she begs Chiron for money and kicks him out when customers come over. Chiron is still close with Teresa (Juan has died).
He’s starting to realize he likes boys. One night he goes to the beach and his friend Kevin shows up and they smoke a blunt. They’re cracking jokes, and that turns into kissing and then sex. Back at school, a bully named Terrel orders Kevin to beat up Chiron or else they’ll beat Kevin up, so Kevin knocks Chiron down. Then Terrel’s group of bullies kick and stomp him bloody.
When Chiron returns to school he breaks a wooden chair over Terrel’s head and immediately gets arrested.
I Can Relate
There was a lot I relate to in the first two chapters of this movie. My birth mom was addicted to drugs, too. She sold crack to the junkies on the block and even sold her body for drugs. One scene, where Chiron comes home and finds an unknown man there doing drugs and Paula acts nervous and angry, was particularly realistic.
I’m not gay, but I have been bullied. It made me feel alone, trapped, and scared, like Chiron. I got called ugly and also gay because I had long hair and I looked like a girl to some people, I guess. In the movie, Chiron is taunted, pushed, and threatened and sits by himself at lunch. I remembered how depressed I felt when I was bullied as I watched those scenes of Terrel and the others picking on Chiron.
On the other hand, I was inspired that Chiron got a father figure and a mother figure like Juan and Teresa. Maybe I’ll be a foster parent in the future when I work and have my own apartment.
Chapter 3 is called “Black,” a nickname we’ve heard Kevin call Chiron. Now he’s a grown man, out of prison, living in Atlanta, Georgia. He looks just like Juan—huge muscles, gold grills on his teeth, black do-rag. Sad ghetto music is playing while Chiron drives around with a gun, selling drugs.
Chiron ditches his mom’s phone calls but picks up a call from Kevin, who invites him back down to Miami to visit the restaurant where he works as a chef.
Chiron visits his mom in rehab, and she apologizes for emotionally abusing him while he was growing up. She tells him she loves him; Chiron cries and forgives her. He then drives to Miami to see Kevin and eats a long dinner that Kevin cooks for him in the restaurant.
At the end of the movie, Chiron tells Kevin, “You’re the only man who ever touched me.” The movie ends with Chiron resting his head on Kevin’s shoulder.
Trust Falls in the Ocean
Because I relate to Chiron, seeing him mess up was disappointing. In high school, instead of being the bigger person, he gets himself arrested by beating Terrel with a chair. I understand how angry you get about being bullied, but if he’d made better choices he wouldn’t have gone to jail. He could have pressed charges on the bullies or transferred out of that school.
After jail, he sold drugs, just like Juan. I don’t want that life.
But Chiron isn’t just a negative example. He is bullied and judged for being gay and for having a crackhead prostitute mother. Yet he takes the risk to express his feelings to Kevin.
He also gives his junkie mother another chance to be in his life. He forgives her and cries, even if he is hard in most of his life. This says to me that no matter how wrong someone does you, you never know what might happen in the future. Forgiving his mom opens Chiron’s heart.
The filmmaking helped to get me to care about Chiron. Early in the movie, Juan takes Chiron to the ocean and teaches him to swim, while the camera jumps in and out of the water. Chiron leans his head back into Juan’s hands, doing trust falls in the ocean and building a bond.
A major theme of this movie is trust. Chiron trusts his mother and Kevin, and they both betray him. Between that and the bullying, Chiron acts tougher. Being bullied and betrayed forces you to shut down parts of yourself to survive.
But Chiron doesn’t shut himself down completely. The movie shows how your life can turn into the opposite of what you want it to be if you let people get under your skin. Chiron had better choices in life, but he was more than his mistakes. At the end of the movie he might have a man to love because he’s brave enough to trust Kevin.