This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
luke dolson’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I am a white, straight, middle class man. I grew up with both my parents. I never had to worry about a next meal, having a place to sleep, or whether or not I'd be beat up or even killed for my color or sexuality or identity. I couldn't be more different from Chiron.
And yet, I believe that the beauty of Moonlight comes in the fact that this is a film that many people can relate to. Let me explain a little. It's rare to see a film dive so deeply into one person's life; to dedicate two hours into understanding, empathizing with, and telling the story of one man's life. It really allows you to see all the nuances that it presents. Although as I stated above, I couldn't be more different from Chiron, I think he's a character that all of us, at least in some way, can connect to. I know I do, and that's been made more and more apparent on each of my now three viewings.
The first time I saw this movie, I couldn't stop thinking about it for three or four days. I laid in bed and couldn't sleep. There was just something about it; something so intensely intimate and empathetic that really struck me. The second time, I saw it in the theater. It was a bad experience, too many distractions, awful audience who I think had no idea what they were watching. This time, it's a little more clear to me. This film speaks a lot about masculinity, and what it means to truly find, and live out, yourself. I've never struggled with my sexuality, but masculinity and what that means has been a challenge. I see it all the time in society. I see it in some of my friend groups. I see it online, mostly twitter. Toxic masculinity. Men who pretend they have everything figured out. Men who call you a "pussy" or a "fag" if you have emotion, and yet they have the same emotion, they just bury it.
I've always been a very sensitive, very observant, contemplative, emotional person. That's how I take everything, it all affects me in a deeply emotional way. I can't stand to watch people suffer, even someone I don't know. My first war film I watched was We Were Soldiers with my parents. I couldn't take it. I can't handle stress very well, I just break down. When my close friends are in pain or struggling, so am I. I was helping a friend with some of her problems for a few months, and multiple times after we'd talk I'd just lose it. I couldn't focus on anything. I couldn't talk, I didn't want to move. And worst of all, I couldn't even cry. A year ago, I'd never have talked about this to anyone. I've now realized that a few of my friends are really the best people on this earth. But they're mostly women. It's frustrating, all my male friends just can't connect with that stuff, or they don't want to. I don't know. A year ago, I'd have been the same way. It was killing me. I had to get it out.
I've started to be more open. I share my emotions and feelings with people, and I'm a lot more honest. And to be honest, I have Moonlight to thank for that. The third act of this movie is so damn great, so real, authentic, true, heartbreaking. It shows a man who has built himself up to be hard, built fronts around himself because he has no place to express himself, no one to express himself to. He's been stigmatized by a world that doesn't understand him and doesn't want to. But with Kevin, it all crashes down. We see this when he answers the phone, we see it on the beach. We see it at the diner, and in the final scene at Kevin's house. That look. That longing and trueness in his eyes. It's everything he's wanted to say and be for his whole life, pouring out. The final shot, Little looks back and faces himself.
I know it seems selfish to make this about me. I'm sorry if it's offensive to make this about me. Like I said, I'm white and straight. I can't pretend to understand the struggles that Chiron has gone through. But I do understand and relate to his struggle to open himself up to others, and to himself. That's the problem with toxic masculinity. It's called toxic for a reason. It was poisoning my life for as long as I can remember. In many ways, it still is. It makes you put up walls. It makes you less human, in a way, because it takes away your ability to connect with other people. It's always "fuck you bro" even if it's a joke, and rarely, at least in my experience, do I express myself emotionally to another man. Why? I'm afraid I'll be ridiculed or shut out. Even if they're joking, they still mean it.
Sorry this essay is probably a mess, all mixed up. But I wrote it from my heart, and this is what Moonlight means to me personally. I could spend triple the amount of time talking about how it is a masterpiece, that's probably more important than my insignificant struggles, but I don't think I'm the person who could accurately talk about what this film means for LGBT people, people of color, that this movie is about. Again I feel selfish for saying all this, making it about me. But in many ways, it is about me. I see so much of myself in Chiron, in the putting up fronts and pretending to have it all figured out, in not being open and honest. This movie destroys me every time, because it's a story of a man who comes to an acceptance of himself, he finds himself. And he finds his voice. It's so intimate, in a way it's about everyone.
Anyway, I'm sorry for the rambling. And to anyone still reading, thank you. I know it's the same stuff I ramble about every time I write something personal, but it's personal. And it's me. Moonlight is a masterpiece, even apart from anything it has to do with me. But it is personal, and for that it's even greater.
P.S. - Thank you to everyone on letterboxd who is open and understanding. Thank you for being a community that I can be honest with, I've connected with some amazing people and I hope to write here and meet more people here as long as I can. You all are the best, and this has been a place where I can write and express myself freely, and I'm eternally grateful for that and all of you. If anyone ever wants to talk, I'd love to. Love you all<3