The next day, Chiron admits to Juan and Teresa that he hates his mother and asks what a " faggot " means. Juan describes it as "a word used to make gay people feel bad. After asking Juan whether he sold drugs to Paula, Chiron leaves as Juan hangs his head in shame. Now a teenager, Chiron Ashton Sanders juggles avoiding school bully Terrel Patrick Decile and spending time with Teresa, who has lived alone since Juan's death.
Paula supports her crack addiction with prostitution and coerces Chiron into giving her money Teresa loans him. One night, Chiron has a dream in which his friend Kevin Jharrel Jerome has sex with a girl in Teresa's backyard. On another night, Kevin visits Chiron at the beach near his house. While smoking a blunt , the two discuss their ambitions and the nickname Kevin gave Chiron when they were children.
They kiss , and Kevin masturbates Chiron. The next morning, Terrel manipulates Kevin into participating in a hazing ritual. Kevin reluctantly punches Chiron until he is unable to stand before watching as Terrel and his goons beat him up. When a social worker urges him to reveal his attackers' identities, Chiron, not wanting to turn him in refuses, stating that reporting them will not solve anything.
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The next day, an enraged Chiron walks into class with a sense of purpose and puts Terrel in his place by smashing him over the head with a chair. The police arrive, arrest Chiron for assault , and send him to juvenile hall. Now going by the nickname "Black," an adult Chiron Trevante Rhodes , is released from prison and deals drugs in Atlanta. He receives frequent calls from Paula, who asks him to visit her at the drug treatment center where she now lives. The next day, he wakes up and realizes he has had a wet dream.
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While visiting Paula, Chiron stands up to her. She proceeds to apologize for not loving him when he needed it most and tells him she loves him even if he does not love her back. Eventually, the two of them reconcile before Paula lets her son go. Chiron travels to Miami and reunites with Kevin, who now works at a diner.
When his attempts to probe Chiron about his life result in silence, Kevin tells him he's had a child with an ex-girlfriend and, although the relationship ended, he is fulfilled by his role as a father.
Chiron proceeds to ask Kevin why he called, to which Kevin plays a song on the jukebox that made him think of Chiron. After Kevin serves Chiron dinner, the two of them go to his apartment. Kevin tells Chiron that he is happy despite the fact that his life didn't turn out as he had hoped, resulting in Chiron breaking down and admitting that he has not been intimate with anybody since their encounter years ago and since his arrest.
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Kevin comforts him and they embrace. In a flashback, Little stands on a beach in the moonlight. The theater piece was shelved for about a decade before it served as the basis for Moonlight. After the release of his debut feature film Medicine for Melancholy in , Barry Jenkins wrote various screenplays, none of which entered production. Although the original play contained three parts, they ran simultaneously so that the audience would experience a day in the life of Little, Chiron and Black concurrently. The result was a screenplay that reflected the similar upbringings of Jenkins and McCraney.
The character Juan was based on the father of McCraney's brother, who was also a childhood "defender" of McCraney, as Juan was for Chiron. Jenkins looked for financing for the film during , finding success after sharing the script with the executives of Plan B Entertainment at the year's Telluride Film Festival. Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner of Plan B Entertainment became producers of the film,  while A24 undertook to finance it and handle worldwide distribution, which marked the company's first production.
Different actors portrayed Chiron and Kevin in each chapter of the film. Ashton Sanders was cast in the role of teen Chiron. Naomie Harris was initially reluctant to portray Paula, stating that she did not want to play a stereotypical depiction of a black woman. She related her experiences of bullying to the addicts' attempts of escaping trauma. Romanski proposed Juan be played by Mahershala Ali , who had a role in one of her previously produced films, Kicks. Jenkins was hesitant when casting Ali due to his role as Remy Danton in House of Cards ; however, he was convinced after witnessing Ali's acting range and understanding of his character.
Filming began on October 14, , in Miami , Florida. Liberty Square , a housing project located in the neighborhood of Liberty City , was chosen as one of the primary locations as both McCraney and Jenkins grew up in the area. During filming, Jenkins made sure that the three actors for Chiron did not meet each other until after filming to avoid any imitations of one another. Jenkins worked with cinematographer and longtime friend James Laxton , who previously shot Medicine for Melancholy. As a result, the three chapters of the film were designed to imitate different film stocks.
Moonlight () - IMDb
The first chapter emulated the Fuji film stock to intensify the cast's skin tones. The second chapter imitated the Agfa film stock, which added cyan to the images, while the third chapter used a modified Kodak film stock. The score of Moonlight was composed by Nicholas Britell. Britell applied the chopped and screwed technique from hip hop remixes to orchestral music, producing a "fluid, bass-heavy score".
The soundtrack, released on October 21, , consists of eighteen original songs by Britell along with others by Goodie Mob , Boris Gardiner , and Barbara Lewis. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian , lists "love, sex, survival, mothers and father figures" among its themes, particularly the lack of a nurturing father. A major theme of Moonlight is the black male identity and its interactions with sexual identity. The film takes a form similar to a triptych in order to explore the path of a man from a neglected childhood, through an angry adolescence, to self-realization and fulfillment in adulthood.
This particular story of Chiron's sexuality is also seen as a story of race in a 'post- Obama ' era. The film amalgamates art film with hood film in its portrayal of African-American characters on-screen. This specifically deals with theme of recuperating identity, especially in terms of blackness. The characters operate in an urban working-class city in Florida but are portrayed through art house conventions to create a new space for black characters in cinema. This mirrors Chiron's own odyssey to learning who he is, as he constantly struggles with trying to find some essentialism to his identity, yet consistently fails in doing so.
The triptych structure helps to reiterate the fragmented personality to the film and Chiron.
The film's co-writer, Tarell Alvin McCraney , speaks on the topic of black masculinity in the film, explaining why Chiron went to such lengths to alter his persona. He argues that communities without privilege or power seek to gain it in other ways. He says one way in which males in such communities do this is by trying to enhance their masculine identity, knowing that it often provides a means to more social control in a patriarchal society.
In the film, Chiron is placed in this divide as a Black gay man and alters his presentation of masculinity as a strategy to avoid ridicule because homosexuality is viewed as incompatible with Black masculine expectations. As young kids, Kevin hides his sexuality in order to avoid being singled out like Chiron is. As Chiron grows older, he recognizes the need to conform to a heteronormative ideal of Black masculinity in order to avoid abuse and homophobia. As an adult, Chiron chooses to embrace the stereotypical Black male gender performance by becoming muscular and a drug-dealer.
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Moonlight explores the effects of this felt powerlessness in black males. As McCraney explains, coping with this feeling often coincides with attempts to overstate one's masculinity, in a way that can easily become toxic. He says one unfortunate side effect of leaning into masculinity too much is that men no longer want to be "caressed, or nurtured, or gentle," which is why a character like Juan may be puzzling to some audiences.
These ideas are related to Omise'eke Natasha Tinsley's essay "Black Atlantic, Queer Atlantic," in which she claims that the slave ships of the middle passage may have allowed for the formulation queer identities and relationships amongst the black men and women below deck.
She argues the formulation of queer relationships was a method of resistance, providing love and comfort to black people when there should have been none. Blackness, masculinity, and vulnerability are major focuses of this film. Juan says, "There are black people everywhere.
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Remember that, okay? We was the first on this planet. It seems that Juan seems to associate this image with vulnerability, given that he tells Chiron that he eventually shed the nickname "Blue" in order to foster his own identity. The scenes depicting Chiron in the moonlight are almost always the ones in which he's vulnerable, his intimate night on the beach with Kevin included. Throughout the film, this dichotomy between black and blue stands in for that between tough and vulnerable, with the black body often hovering between the two.
Water is often seen as cleansing and transformative and this is apparent in the film as well. Whether it be him swimming in the ocean or simply splashing water on his face, Chiron is constantly interacting with water. However, it is most notable that water is most often seen in the film in times of immense transition for Chiron.
Throughout his life, Chiron resorts to water to bring him comfort ie taking baths when his mother is not home or swimming in the ocean with Juan. In the scene where Juan taught Little to swim, he explained to him the duality of water in relation to Black existence, a concept addressed in Omise'eke Natasha Tinsley's Black Atlantic, Queer Atlantic.
The ocean is like a crosscurrent as Tinsley says, that can simultaneously be a place of inequality and exploitation as well as beauty and resistance. Tinsley describes how, "black queerness itself becomes a crosscurrent through which to view hybrid, resistant subjectivities and perhaps, black queers really have no ancestry except the black water," The film had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on September 2, The film's poster reflects its triptych structure, combining the three actors portraying Chiron into a single face.
Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times referred to it "as one of the most anticipated films for fall". On February 27, , the day after the Academy Awards, Calvin Klein released an underwear advertising campaign featuring four of the male actors in the film. After the Oscars ceremony, A24 announced that the film would be played at 1, theaters.
The website's critical consensus reads, " Moonlight uses one man's story to offer a remarkable and brilliantly crafted look at lives too rarely seen in cinema. He praised the actors' performances and described the cinematography of James Laxton as "fluid and seductive, deceptively mellow, and shot through with searing compassion.
While discussing the film after its screening at the Toronto International Film Festival , Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times described Moonlight as "achingly romantic and uncommonly wise," opining the film to be an early Oscar contender.