Moonlight ★★★★

Scavenger Hunt 24 - March 2017
Task #14: A best picture winner you really want to see, but just haven't gotten around to it.

As the credits rolled on the critically acclaimed, Academy Award winning
film Moonlight, I was initially left unsure as to what my thoughts were. As a white heterosexual woman, what can I really say about the struggles of a young, black man who is trying to come to terms with being gay, without it sounding contrived?

Then I thought about what I do for a living. In my job, I sadly hear the stories of countless adults who have grown up in communities in which extreme acts of violence, fear and disempowerment have been part of their everyday lives. My mind always goes straight to the young child with so much potential that they have grown around, who never felt safe with anyone; who rarely dared to trust. Who has been force to hide themselves within a suffocating, rigid web of survival mechanisms, the nature of which only someone in their shoes could even begin to comprehend. They literally become trapped within a cage that they have been forced to build for themselves by numbing every one of their already burnt out senses, just to get by. If that doesn’t work; they might try alcohol or drugs to keep the dissociation going, or they might go one step further and build an entirely new identity altogether to snuff out their weakness and vulnerability and bury it deep within themselves. If that identity works - if it helps them to gain back power and control, if it helps to calm their fears, it grows tightly around them. It becomes them and they are never able to escape or grow. Their choice becomes literal or metaphorical prison - none of which aides growth of the vulnerable person they have been aiming to protect - they are never a free man.
So the cycle of transgenerational trauma - the hurt, the confusion, and the repression, continues. When you add layers of oppression from your race, community and sexuality, where can you even begin?

Moonlight illustrated this beautifully in Chiron becoming powerful in the only way that he knew possible, whilst trying to deny a part of him that he was bullied and chastised for before he even understood what it meant. It was no surprise to me that he became the spitting image of the only man in his life who had proven to be a stable figure, in spite of it being clear that very man was also earning money from his mother’s drug addiction. Yet it is once again part of that cycle, which is so powerfully illustrated throughout - more so by defining the film into three distinctive parts and driving the point of his transformation home.

Unlike Brokeback Mountain, with which I couldn’t help but draw a few parallels, the ending of Moonlight initially left me with a tiny shred of hope that enough of Chiron was left behind the facade, but I doubted whether the beginnings of support and possibly love from his old schoolmate Kevin would be enough to break the cycle for him.

Once you are engulfed in the characterisation that has made you, can you leave it behind or like the end scene in Fight Club, in destroying it, do you also destroy yourself? I once again felt heartbroken for all the young boys out there whose circumstances force them to become caricatures of what the pressures of their community and its history have created, whilst the seeds of who they could have been free to become are never permitted to grow. It’s a modern day tragedy with a historical legacy, which we are surrounded by across all communities and it struck an incredibly strong chord for me. I can’t contemplate how it would feel to watch if you were in Chiron’s shoes. It’s powerful stuff and is a film that is highly deserving of the praise it has received.

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