‘Moonlight’ Leaves an Open Wound

‘Moonlight’ is a visual symphony, a three-act structure that conforms to the tragic bliss of feeling comfortable in your own skin.

Barry Jenkins delivers ‘Moonlight,’ an indie film as beautifully fragile as its subject matter.

Photo courtesy of Steven Zang.

It’s easy to underestimate the light. We live in it day-by-day, never knowing its true potential on dreamers. Nonetheless, the longer we live in it, the closer that we are to the edge of the shadows.

Moonlight, the newest feat by filmmaker Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy), is nothing short of a masterpiece. This indie drama plays like a rhapsody in blue, with three daunting acts flowing as one, contemplative thought. It’s as heart-wrenching as it is euphoric, painting a vivid image of the obstacles one must overcome to discover their own true colors.

Chiron has struggled with his sexuality throughout his entire life. However, in Moonlight, the audience is thrown into three defining moments in this journey. At first, we start in his youth, growing up in Liberty Square, Miami, with a mother addicted to crack-cocaine and a sympathetic dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali).

As he grows into his teenage years, Chiron (now played by Ashton Sanders) becomes a target of homophobic bullying. His only sense of escape is through his covert love interest, Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). Nevertheless, as time elapses, and an older Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) conforms to society’s vision of a “man,” he must confront Kevin and his only accepted experience into homosexuality.

What makes Moonlight so gripping is its balance between well-roundedness and raw passion. The drama satisfies, while the film practically implodes itself with intense artistry. The setting adjusts itself to Chiron’s unpredictable lifestyle, specifically in the physical (and metaphorical) light that Jenkins sheds.

Furthermore, as the light welcomes itself as a separate entity in Chiron’s journey, we find ourselves tangled up in the unvarnished flaws of every player in the film. No matter if one stands on the sidelines of equal love or homophobia, each character plays to the collective’s struggles with stereotypes and self-identities.  By the closing credits, any one person with a conscience and a heart will find themselves at their own judgmental crossroad. It’s truly moving, from this perspective.

Moonlight does exactly what a story should do – it helps us transcend our own being,” said Richard Ormsby, a Junior Filmmaking Major at Montclair State University. “The film brings us closer to someone you may not ever dream of empathizing with and brings you to tears in the process. It’s also an emotional and mind-shifting journey. Go see it as soon as you can.”

Moonlight breaks the mould and leaves us all with open wounds. We feel for Chiron, and we can’t help but feel guilty, even as measly spectators. However, Jenkins’ intention isn’t 110 minutes of self-remorse. Rather, Jenkins makes us self-aware. We are eye-opened in a way that no film this personal has made us feel before. Most importantly, we are one step closer to being out of the shadows, for good. One step closer to the light.

Moonlight is now playing in select movie theaters worldwide. Some more local venues include Allwood Cinemas (Clifton, N.J.) and even Bow Tie Clairidge Cinemas in the heart of downtown Montclair. For a list of even more theaters and show-times, visit fandango.com today.

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