There were two reasons I went to watch Moonlight: first, I had not been to a cinema in about two months, and second, I was curious about the three Oscars it won (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali, and Best Adapted Screenplay).
When the Academy Awards came and went, and there was not even a whisper of Moonlight being screened here, I had thought its theme of an African-American boy growing up gay would not be shown in Singapore because it would not likely pass the Censorship Board. Surprisingly, is is now being screened unedited with only an M18 rating.
The movie opens with a scene in which Ali, who plays Juan, a drug dealer who is a father figure for the young Chiron (played by Alex R. Hibbert as a boy, Ashton Sanders as a teen and Trevante Rhodes as an adult).
Chiron is a boy growing up in Miami under the care of struggling single mother Paula (Naomi Harris). He has been teased and bullied by others all the time. His life is one of pretence, as he didn’t want to be called by names that made him feel bad and suffers horrific injuries from being beaten but does not want to press charges because then no one else would know. He knows he is trapped. It is only at the end of the movie that he ends this war with himself.
Much have also been said about how the director of Moonlight is an admirer of Hong Konger Wong Kar Wai’s techniques of showing a character’s thoughts and feelings through the use of music, body language and other details. Besides making use of different genres of music here (I vaguely recognised a Mozart piece among jazz, blues, rap and other forms), I especially like how the solo violinist and pianist create tension with crescendos, accelerandos, diminuendos and ritardandos.
Little details like the wall clock in the shape of a treble clef and Chiron’s car bearing the number plate BLACK 305 are as revealing as the body language of the actors.