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Film analysis written by Victor "Vic Kings" Reis

Black boys turn blue under the moonlight. This phrase inspired the title of Tarell Alvin McCraney's play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue", which later became the acclaimed movie "Moonlight". The film brought director Barry Jenkins to stardom and worldwide recognition of his amazing talent, and A24's huge success as one of the world's most groundbreaking production company and film distributors with their first Academy Award for Best Motion Picture in the 89th Oscars ceremony.

Inspired by the beautifully crafted and often silent cinematography of the Chinese director Wong Kar Wai, Jenkins conquered the eyes, minds, and hearts of moviegoers, critics, and fellow filmmakers with this emotional and deep journey in the life of Chiron, a black queer boy, who had a huge difficulty to hide his true self, like many others black LGBTQIAP+ people during the early-90s. Neglected by his crack-addict mom, Chiron (a.k.a. Little) is "adopted" by Mahershala Ali's Juan and Janelle Monáe's Teresa in the movie's first act. Juan plays the boy's father figure, something that Chiron didn't have since he was born, like many BPOC children who are abandoned or not even recognized by their fathers. The Afro-Cuban drug dealer brings to the boy things he never had, such as being truthfully seen and heard. While Teresa shows Chiron that what he saw as a mother was a sickened version of it, since his momma Paula (played brilliantly by Naomie Harris) is just another victim of an awful attempt to exterminate the black population, taking off their opportunities to study and work, and doping them with highly addictive chemicals, aiming the self-destruction of a population stigmatized by bloody violence, never-ending anger, and constant fear.

Named after the Greek centaur son of the Titan Cronus (Lord of the Time) and the Oceanid Philyra, the mythological character shares several similarities with the Miami ghetto boy. Like many Greek gods and titans, Cronus usually cheated on his wife with several other women, goddesses, creatures, or humans. In this case, the Titan turned himself into a stallion, to rape and impregnate the water-nymph Philyra, just to run away afterward. Disgusted by the horse-human hybrid she gave birth to, the Oceanid abandoned her son to his fate. Luckily, the centaur was later adopted by Apollo, the god of the Sun and light. His foster father not only gave him shelter and protection, but also taught him many skills, especially in Medicine, turning Chiron into one of the greatest healers in Greek mythology, but with an eternal wound that no one could ever cure.

The legend of Chiron later became a subject in Astrology as well, naming a small planet that, in the zodiac represents our deepest wounds, and thus how to be able to overcome them. But just like the mythological wounded healer, this astrological aspect hurtfully shows us our uncurable traumas, which ultimately become the shadow we will always walk with, the biggest trick of it is exactly learning to live with that dark part of us, healing others with the help of our pains and triggers. And that's exactly what the journey of the film’s protagonist is about.

With the nickname Little (played by the debutant Alex R. Hibbert), Chiron is rescued by a foster father who shows him what it is to be a human being, and how much that care can save us from the deepest pits of life, being a good kid in a mad city. But with the sudden (and unexplained) death of Juan, the 2nd part of Chiron's journey takes form. While in the first third of the projection, the bright colors bring up the naïve optimism of Chiron, who was surprised by being embraced by a family for the first time in his life; the second act shows the audience a change of tides in the film's palette, bringing upfront the blueness of the dark skin referenced in the play's title. The choice is not at all by chance, though, instead, it enforces the sadness experienced by the young man during his high school years.

As a teenage boy, Chiron (strongly played by the promising Ashton Sanders) contacts for the first time his queer sexuality, being stricken now by the prejudice that transcends his dark-skin color and hits him in the depths of his feelings of what is desire and love, embodied in the figure of his friend/love interest Kevin. The friendship and trust between the boys are crystal clear, so as their chemistry together, which culminated in the beautiful date, they had in front of the beach, sharing not only a first kiss but also a first sexual experience, something that planted seeds of love and passion inside of Chiron. However, the next day at school, the boy is betrayed, beaten, mocked, and abandoned. Hurt and feeling miserable, the wounded young man decides to get revenge with his own hands, in a reactionary and violent manner. The boy then ultimately gets incarcerated in a Correctional Center after assaulting his bully. But besides his freedom, Chiron's biggest losses were actually in his heart: the death of his mentor, and feeling deceived by the boy he fell in love with.

In the 3rd and final chapter, Chiron becomes Black (now portrayed by Trevante Rhodes), a strong and feared drug dealer now in Atlanta, GA. The teenage boy became a respected and silent man, self-conscious of himself, inspired by the lessons and legacy of Juan. Just like his new nickname, the color palette of this closure act, gets gloomier, full of shadows and darkened tones, like the start of his grieving process for the naivïty he once had, while walking towards the clash with his strongest demons and deepest pains.

Even though being an O.G., Chiron still has to deal with his open wounds, also known as Paula and Kevin, representing his ultimate traumas of abandonment and rejection. After being called by his mother, Black decides to travel back to Florida, where he confronts his sickened, weakened, and full-of-regrets mother. The encounter with Paula makes Chiron breaks his silence in an emotional burst of hidden and buried bruises he has kept to himself since childhood. The powerful moment is crowned with forgiveness and reconciliation between the two, leading the man to confront his other fear: love.

At the diner place where Kevin works, Black and his childhood not-just-friend talk about their lives in the past few years. For Kevin, fatherhood turned him into a responsible adult, even if his relationship with his son's mother didn't work out; while Chiron talks about his prophetical position of becoming a drug dealer like his mentor before him. Embraced by Barbara Lewis' ballad "Hello Stranger", the two men reminisce about their past together, and the story they could have lived with one another. It was a landmark in Chiron’s life because, since his first kiss and sexual experience with Kevin, he couldn't be with another person. As he opens up his heart for the boy he once (still) loved, Chiron sees himself, once again as Little, standing still on the beach sand, looking at the infinite horizon of sea and sky, and shining his black-turned-blue skin under the pale light of the full moon.

Jenkins not only made poetry with lights and sounds but also gave voice to several black boys and men who struggle with self-acceptance in a world dominated by hatred against non-white, non-heteronormative, poor, and marginalized people, who many times, as an alternative to keep living, who have as their main goal to turn into the very oppressors who made them who they became. Chiron's journey illustrates the possibility of transcending the hate cycle that magnetizes trauma survivors into a never-ending spiral that consumes souls, dreams, and light, like a black hole, a sunken place that only gives space to internal emptiness and numbness.

Thanks to stories like Chiron's and Kevin's, black LGBTQIAP+ people can see their pains and glories on the big screen to worldwide audiences. Being able to see that, yes, they can live their lives in their fullest form, knowing very well that they are not alone, that they deserve to be loved, that they are worth it, that they can be artists, parents, lovers, and most of all respected human beings, who will inspire new generations in this harsh and full of obstacles path towards self-love. I end this analysis with a shout out full of respect and admiration to Montero Lamar Hill, or simply Lil Nas X, who is living and showing billions how to live under RuPaul's most-known motto: "if you don't love yourself, how in the hell you're gonna love somebody else?". Can I have an amen in here?!

By Victor “Vic Kings” Reis


*A.N.: Title inspired by the song “Sun Goes Down” by Lil Nas X.


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