The final scene in Moonlight depicts our once again youthful Chiron looking back toward the audience from along waters edge. Looking back at us from his own beginning with that desperate hope of achieving a comfort he so desires yet little then comprehends. Looking back even further toward another iconoclastic new wave in cinema. In direct homage to Antoine Doinel’s glance of hopeful desperation at the end of “the 400 blows”, Chiron looks back toward that original impulsive muse that sparked a stylistic revolution and changed filmmaking forever. Narrative, stylistic, thematic and historical threads neatly and quietly woven onto the end of our present journey.
Few contemporary films set out with as insistent an authorial intent as does Jenkins with his portrayal of innocence, betrayal, revenge and redemption. The classic three act structure is folded down into discrete slivers of existence allowing us a focused depiction from Little to Chiron to Black. Three acts in three distinct and desperate stages of life. The filler of a thousand lesser films inhabit the gaps the audience must wrestle with in order to accept each next iteration of our protagonist. Buffeted by impulses and yearnings beyond his understanding, the audience is likewise subject to a somewhat discordantly uncomfortable representation of existence along the edge of our expectations.
Profound moments of deafening silence alongside jarringly physical camera expression find awkward yet completely satisfying coexistence in portraying the precarious lives of this particular urban class as well as Chiron’s own personal disconnect from that milieu. At times in agreement and others in contention, the visual and audio elements of Moonlight build back onto the foundations of freedom and expression so boldly discovered over a half century ago. Modern technologies and sensibilities coming to the rescue of a personal portrayal of existence as closely as it may be possible to the feelings of those it portrays.
It’s rare when modern filmmaking is allowed to blindly and boldly follow authorial intent. It’s rarer still that a singularly pursued vision resonates with a large segment of the population and finds such wide acceptance among the casual and avid film goer. Nothing is easy about Moonlight. From its subject that causes instant pause to its cast of absent Caucasians to its look into a cultural world most prefer ignored. Nothing is easy about Moonlight except the ease with which its worldly concerns are wrapped around a singularly focused desire to survive and accept what it is in life we’ve all been given.