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Film Review: 'Moonlight' Puts Spotlight on Bullying, Inner City Life

by Todd A. Smith


Ashton Sanders stars as teenage Chiron in “Moonlight” (Photo Credit: David Bornfriend courtesy of A24).



Growing up in the Modern Day Hood 



Growing up in the hood presents hardships.

Those hardships grow exponentially when one does not fit in with the crowd.

Uniqueness as a child can make growing up almost unbearable, and for those weak at heart, it can destroy them and send their lives spiraling out of control.

Chiron (Alex Hibbert), or Little as he is called in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, has the odds stacked against him from the beginning.

He is often left to fend for himself because his mother struggles with an addiction and his father is missing in action.

Furthermore, his peers call him a variety of homophobic slurs, even though he does not know what those slurs mean, and constantly assault him every chance they get.

His only male role model is Juan (Mahershala Ali), the neighborhood pharmaceutical technician, better known on the streets as a dope boy, drug dealer or kingpin.

Juan teaches him everything from Black history, swimming, and taking pride in oneself, despite one’s eccentricities.

Juan and his lady Teresa (Janelle Monae) are the only parental figures Chiron has because of his crack addicted mother, and their home becomes a refuge filled with love, support, safety and good food.

Despite the stability that Juan and Teresa provide, things do not get much easier for Chiron (Ashton Sanders) after he enters high school.

He is still being relentlessly bullied, but eventually becomes extremely close with Kevin (Jharrel Jerome).

Although Chiron and Kevin share more in common than their classmates suspect, Kevin’s sexuality is a secret to his peers and in order to protect himself from bullying, he has to bully Chiron himself.

When Chiron snaps on the bullies, it sends his life spiraling out of control even more, with him trying to deny his reality and recreate his life in Atlanta as Black (Trevante Rhodes).

“Moonlight” is proof that there is beauty in simplicity.

The film is a straightforward coming of age film, which follows Chiron as he tries to discover who he is and where he fits into the world.

Moviegoers can feel Chiron’s pain as he struggles with poverty, drugs, violence and bullying at such a young age.

Although Little barely speaks at the beginning of “Moonlight,” his facial expressions and silence speaks volumes.

So many young children in the inner cities of America must overcome problems that many adults cannot even handle.

And Chiron’s ultimate explosion in school is certainly understandable and appropriate in this age of intense bullying in American society.

His strength is amazing, because with all that he has to overcome in life, it is amazing that he does not do himself harm like so many in his shoes have done, unfortunately. 

All three actors to portray Chiron do a wonderful job and Naomi Harris (Chiron’s mother Paula) will be hated for choosing drug addiction over being a responsible parent.

Ali is fantastic in every role he touches, but Monae also shines and has a bright future on the big screen.

It will be great to see how her acting career progresses over the years.

Unfortunately, the simplicity of the storyline might also be a turnoff for some moviegoers.


But “Moonlight” is excellent because it is able to tell a simple tale about a complex and confusing life.






This article was published on Friday 04 November, 2016.
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