The essential truths of ‘Moonlight’
R.J. Stempak | Friday, September 22, 2017
I got around to watching “Moonlight” at the end of the summer, just before returning to school. The 2016 Best Picture perfectly executed what I hope to find in every film I watch: specificity.
If you haven’t seen it, “Moonlight” is a fascinating look into the coming of age of a gay black man named Chiron in an impoverished household in Miami. I couldn’t have had a more different upbringing than Chiron, yet the intense dialogue and emotion in the film had parts that really resonated with me, specifically how the movie highlights the difference between how Chiron and those around him value the key events of his life.
Towards the end of the movie, Chiron hopes that his friend Kevin called him after a decade apart to meet up and to reveal how he has romantic feelings lingering from their childhood. When Chiron meets with him, Kevin tells Chiron of his wife and child, not of his love, not reciprocating his feelings.
I don’t think you can grow out of hoping that you matter as much to other people as they matter to you. I am involuntarily invested in the people in my life, genuinely interested in them and how they are doing.
People don’t express how much they need others as often as they could. I don’t show how much I care about people, but the feeling is always with me.
Chiron never expressed how pivotal his teenage years with Kevin were to his life, but the importance associated with this memory stuck with him through adulthood.
This wasn’t some lesson or even a theme that “Moonlight” tried to express. The movie just told an honest and specific story about a single human, and along with that story came the idiosyncrasies that manifest themselves in everyone’s lives. This is how I connected with the film.
Unfortunately, not every movie does this. Take “Boyhood,” for example. The 2014 film garnered attention because of its use of the same actors over a 12-year period. It told the story of boyhood, as the title suggests, depicting various cliché events that supposedly come up in every boy’s upbringing.
Instead of telling a story about a specific boy with distinct experiences, it tells you what your childhood was supposed to be like, trying to hit every single note that a boy might experience, from his first noticing girls to his first time drinking.
It came off as generic and preachy.
Both movies followed a similar format, telling stories of preteen, teenage years and then adulthood in distinct chapters, but they were on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of emotional impact. This is because of specificity.
Don’t tell me how I should understand my life, but tell me about yours and I am bound to connect to it.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.