Thesis: Can Chiron remain true to himself?
Inciting Incident: Chiron meets Juan.
Juan finds Chiron holed up in the neck of an abandoned building after the boy is attacked by bullies, and takes him under his wing.
It’s a big change from Chiron’s own life, with his mother, Paula, who is an addict. Juan’s a set man, confident in his purpose, with a business that holds him just above the circumstances surrounding him. He’s a heroin dealer.
Moonlight’s inciting incident is a softer one in terms of not being a call to adventure, so much as an introduction to life ahead. Juan tries to give Chiron pride in himself, and tries to warn him of the choices in life that will craft him into who he will become.
Threshold: Chiron asks what a faggot is.
Paula recognizes that Juan is trying to take her child. It’s only worsened by the fact that her addiction is fueled by the drugs he sells. She doesn’t want to be taken like that. When Chiron gets home she screams at him for thinking of finding another family. He doesn’t say a word.
At Juan’s home, they talk about Paula. Juan picks up with easy answers, until Chiron asks.
“What’s a faggot?”
We break a threshold here. Chiron needs to know about himself. He wants to know what kind of life he’s living, what direction to go. It’s the first piece to self-discovery. Chiron asks if he’s gay after he gets an answer, but the intention to take on how the world views him is what makes this such a powerful moment.
Midpoint: Chiron and Kevin kiss.
Chiron’s grown into a lanky body that keeps to itself. The bullies at his school have gotten specific, towards him, and to his orientation. None of that bothers Kevin though, Chiron’s childhood friend. On the surface they get along, joke around, keep face with mention of –
“Nigga, you nosy.”
But there’s an ocean beneath it. This friendship is a need.
Paula is strung by heroin one night. She’s expecting company later, and tells Chiron he has to sleep somewhere else.
He takes two late trains just to make it to sea breeze shore in a nice part of town. On the beach, Kevin shows up with a blunt and they get to talking; about life, about wanting to do things that don’t make sense.
They kiss. The belt buckle unclasps, and Kevin gives Chiron a handjob.
Chiron has spent the entire film snuffing out his feelings. This is the first time we see him allow himself to be exposed to another person, especially in such intimate form.
Low Point: Kevin beats up Chiron.
In the cafeteria, Chiron’s bully gets nostalgic over the game, knock them down, where the goal is to make sure someone doesn’t get back up. He reminisces with Kevin, over how he knocked out a Puerto Rican kid, and mourns the fact that no one does it anymore. He asks Kevin –
“If I point someone out, is you going to knock them down?”
He pits Kevin against Chiron. The game throbs in the circle of the student body. Kevin throws what he has while Chiron keeps his head towards the sun.
By the last punch Chiron’s beaten face hits the ground, with three other boys stomping on what’s left of him.
This plot point has the most conflict for me. It could even be where Chiron gets sent off to juvie, where his future becomes thins into trapping.
In a big way I feel that in this sort of structure, the midpoint and lowpoint are tethered. In American cinema it tends to be the protagonist being punished for his false victory. Here, it’s Chiron, punished for revealing a part of himself.
Climax: Chiron admits his longing for Kevin.
Ten years later, Chiron’s packed on some muscle with a car that can stride. He’s worked his way through a few ranks to get where he is, with a man he met in juvie, who got him into selling drugs.
Out of the blue Chiron gets a call from Kevin, who apologize for the past. Kevin tells him about a song that was playing in his restaurant that got him remembering, and promises the chef special if Chiron ever stops by.
When Chiron shows up, neither of them are sure who they expected. It’s obvious time changes things, but for Kevin, he wonders –
“Who is you Chiron?”
He goes by the name Black now. He’s hardened to the temperature of what’s around him. Despite it all, in the calm space of Kevin’s home, he admits –
“You’re the only man that’s ever touched me.”
The moment is cautious until it warms. In the final pair of shots, we see Chiron and Kevin in each other’s embrace. We see Chiron, just a kid, at the edge of the water in a thalassic breeze.
If Chiron can live a life true to himself, it begins with being himself, and his ability to show that self to everyone else.
I had to watch it twice.
It didn’t feel right to see it any less.
The school life in particular hit very close. It’s a place to learn that’s staggered with a violence that hums just under the surface.
I’m Colombian, possibly mistaken for Italian on a decent day. Years after my public education the feeling of mourning hasn’t left. The action potential of bright Hispanic kids was always restricted by the surrounding animosity of dulled opportunity barely evaded by teachers, afraid of their own students.
The way I saw it, holding the camera an immediate length from the joyful, the hardened, the young faces of underprivileged youth – was meant to kill me.
I cried at points in the film, some of which I could barely just discern why.
All the while, American cinema has a love for blame. There’s a belief that everyone can fight their odds, but that’s the sort of harmful pressure I cannot place.
I love how Barry Jenkins, the writer, handled the concept of act breaks.
The character isn’t CALLED TO ADVENTURE. He’s met with a friend.
He doesn’t BURST THROUGH THE THRESHOLD. He chooses to leave.
There isn’t a FALSE VICTORY, it’s a touch of intimacy.
The LOW POINT is a schoolyard betrayal.
The CLIMAX is an admission of longing.