Moonlight Review

Moonlight Review

Grace Lawlor, Staff Reporter

Best picture winner, Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, premiered in 2016. The movie follows the story of a young, introverted boy named Chiron through three different periods of adolescence. He faces numerous hardships and learns to accept himself, primarily, by coming to terms with his sexuality. 

Barry Jenkins’ talent as a director and writer are showcased through the movie’s beautiful use of symbolism, score, and cinematography. In the first act, Chiron’s friend and father-like figure, Juan, shares the title of his favorite play, “In Moonlight, black boys look blue.” When told this quote, Chiron appears to be in a rare state of vulnerability, which continues as a theme throughout the story. Whenever Chiron feels vulnerable or shares an unseen part of himself, the color blue is somehow incorporated into the cinematography of the scene. For example, when Chiron proceeds to confront his school bully, the color blue appears in almost all visual aspects of the scene, symbolizing his first publicly torn down guard at school. 

The most significant and appreciated scene of the film, where Juan teaches Chiron how to swim, uses symbolism, score, and cinematography in a skillful and touching way. This scene occurs in the same setting where Juan tells the previously mentioned quote to Chiron. Juan then proceeds to teach him how to swim. The blue water encompasses and takes over Chiron as he and Juan feel vulnerable and free as themselves, Chiron for the first time. The exceedingly beautiful cinematography of this scene is accompanied by a dramatic string score that matches the tone and atmosphere perfectly. Through this, Juan teaches Chiron how to approve of and appreciate himself. 

By the end of the third act, the viewer finally sees Chiron acknowledge and take pride in who he is, once reunited with his early lover, Kevin. In previous years apart, Chiron seems to lose sense of himself while attempting to fit societal norms. However, once reconnected to one of the influential figures who guided him on his journey of self-acceptance, he recognizes his worth and gains the individuality that he had once so longed for. As Chiron grows up, he experiences pain, betrayal, love, and fluctuations of confidence. 

Moonlight focuses on topics that, for many years, were untouched in coming of age stories, such as sexuality, broken families, and poverty. These contribute to the fact that it is a ground-breaking and influential story that accomplishes so much in under 2 hours and makes viewers feel appreciated through character portrayal. Moonlight is a beautiful, heart-wrenching piece of art that changed the lives of many and the world of representation in cinema.