A coming of age film told in three parts. Each part depicts a different point in Chiron’s life and each segment, a different actor.The issues within the film are nothing new in regard to dysfunctional home life. It strikes all the notes— drugs, gangs, trouble at school. The unique format, talented performances, and wonderful audio/visual flourishes allow Moonlight to deliver a striking rendition of finding one’s identity, as well as a portrayal of modern black masculinity.
It is immediate that Chiron is different. Introverted, quiet, and withdrawn, he is shown as mostly reactive to his environment. What the role lacks in dialogue, the actors portraying Chiron are able to communicate without. Internal struggle and sadness through a subtle movement, a shoulder drop or furtive gaze. The expressions in their eyes are of particular note. At first glance, the actors playing Chiron do not look too similar and requires suspension of disbelief on behalf of the audience to picture them all as the same person. However, once the viewers see the way each actor shares the look their eyes to communicate what Chiron is feeling, all that is needed to connect them as Chiron becomes apparent.
The color palette of the film revolves around shades of blue. There is a key conversation early in the film where Chiron is told that black boys look blue in the moonlight. The back and forth dialogue lead into a point about identity and how nobody should define you, only you can. From then onward (and likely before), the colors blue and red are used to frame Chiron’s different levels of agency in the choices he makes that eventually make him become the person we see in the third act.
The film’s use of music underscores the emotionalcolors of the movies well. A variety of music from classical to soul to chopped and screwed hip hop is utilized to deftly reflect and in some instances, mute the feelings of the characters on screen. The interplay between sight and sound in the film’s third act is so masterful, one cannot help feel blindsided by it when the moments come and fade.
In greek mythology, Chiron is the name of a legendary centaur. Centaurs were notorious for being wild, lusty, and overly indulgent. Chiron was by contrast, kind, civilized, and intelligent. In similar form, Moonlight illustrates the timeless issues of defining oneself among a group by fitting in, standing out on your own, and more realistically, adapting something in between.