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Oscars Challenge #26: Moonlight (2016) Movie Review

At the 78th Academy Awards in 2006, it was controversial that Crash won Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain, Some speculated that the latter had tackled a topic wherein it was not ready to be shown or realized yet by the people.

I am really glad that 2016's Moonlight didn't occur the same fate as Brokeback Mountain. At least these kinds of films should be recognized now.

Moonlight is the first LGBTQ movie to win the Best Picture award.

This movie is about finding your identity and accepting it. It was divided into three parts that mainly depict the stages in Chiron's wife. The first act, entitled Little was when Chiron was found by a notorious but kind drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali) while hiding from a group of bullies. He lets him spend the night with him at his house along with his girlfriend before returning him home to his mother, a struggling drug addict who cares more about her temptations than her relationship with young Chiron. At this point in his life, he begins to question his identity and Juan ensures him that it's okay to be gay despite what everyone thinks. In the second act, entitled Chiron, the main character is now a teenager and begins to spend more time with Teresa due to his mother still continuing her drug addiction. At this point, he begins to struggle between dealing with school bullies and at the same time developing a romantic relationship with his friend, Kevin. Even though they realized that both of them have mutual feelings for each other he was betrayed by his friend due to peer pressure from the bullies. During the 3rd act, Chiron is now an established adult but is still doing illegal things. He received a call from Kevin telling him to visit him in Miami. After visiting his mother in a drug treatment center he detoured to meet Kevin along the way, who is now working as a cook in a small diner. Will they reconcile the torn past and develop once again the relationship that was broken?

Let's talk about the characters first. Chiron's character had a very troubled past dealing with bullies and her mother that's struggling with her addiction. I think his story is developed very well. From the start of the first act until the first half of the 3rd act you know that his character is battered emotionally and mentally. You kind of want to sympathize with him. Kevin, on the other hand, acted like a safe place for Chiron because whenever they spend their time together he can be like himself and not pretend like somebody. Other supporting characters like Teresa, Juan, and Chiron's mother fit well in the storyline as well and acts as a supporting block in his development throughout the plot.

Juan teaching little chiron how to swim

The film is almost 2 hours long but it felt kind of short to me. I feel like there is more story that needs to be told but the ending credits rolled out before that happened. Yes, the ending is open-ended and honestly, it might be intentional so that we the audiences need to predict what would happen to both Chiron and Kevin. So to me, it's okay that it's intended that way, though I like to see more.

The music in this movie defines the changing characters as well. I think it was pretty well done.

Chiron hitting his bully

Several themes and symbols were present in the movie as well. The most prevalent is water. Whenever Chiron is happy or satisfied a body of water is present such as when Juan teaches him how to swim, when Kevin and he had an intimate time together on the beach and when his mother is late to come home, he spends his time taking a bath. I am not an expert as to what water really symbolizes but to me, it's like a baptism ritual where Chiron feels safe and identified whenever there is a body of water. Another symbol is the portrayal of Black Masculinity. During the first and second acts, you can see that Chiron is a skinny little kid who gets bullied by his classmates. This portrays him as being weak over his peers and he needed to change that. In the last act, he looks buff and ready to take on everything. However, right at that point he still feels emotionally disturbed and helpless. So even though you are muscular and big physically, it doesn't necessarily mean you are strong emotionally and mentally.

Some scenes in the film are kind of tough to watch if you especially if you hate seeing characters being so helpless. One particular scene is when Chiron's mother chooses her addiction and tries to steal the money from her child. And then you realize that as troubled and helpless as Chiron is, so does she. There are several moments that are like that and it really brings you to your emotional knees sometimes.

Chiron and Kevin enjoying a drink together

At first, my initial thought about this film is that it is a typical in-the-hood movie. You know like gangsters and drug dealers then something goes wrong but this film did surprise me a little bit. Not my favorite kind of genre but everything just works in this movie. The way the story is divided, the characters, and the symbolism. I don't know what specifically made me love the entire movie but it just did.

What puzzles me though is why Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting actor when he had only a few minutes of screen time in the movie. Not complaining about his acting or role in the movie but to me, it felt like he was one part of the film and then disappeared completely. But it is what it is and just move on from that.

If you plan on sleeping on this film because of the LGBTQ topic or something, please don't. Even if you remove the LGBTQ part and replace it with something else the message is still there and to me that's what makes this movie great.

A definite must-watch and I could watch it a few more times and would not get bored.

I will give this a pretty solid 4 out of 5.

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