As the headline indicates, this post contains spoilers about “Moonlight.”
“Moonlight” ends with a flicker of hope. After coursing through three disillusioned chapters in the life of our young main character, Chiron, the movie poses a question: Will he embrace the truth of his sexuality, or will the homophobia that taunts him continue to dictate his well-being?
Given the stellar box-office performance that Barry Jenkins’ masterful coming-of-age drama saw last weekend, many people have also probably debated this quandary over the past several days. What societal ills led to the schoolyard bullying that Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert) endured in the film’s first division? As a teenager (Ashton Sanders), should he have fought back? Did his mother’s (Naomie Harris) drug habits rob his resilience? And when a grown, hardened Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) reunites with Kevin (André Holland), the only guy who ever touched him affectionately, will he drop his guard? Will he live authentically in a world that rejects untraditional notions of black masculinity?
Any answers to the last two questions are merely speculative, as the film ends on an open-ended note of potential solace. A few weeks ago, I asked Jenkins and some of the cast where they see Chiron a decade after “Moonlight” draws to a close. The specifics of their answers varied, but the temperament was universal: They have infinite faith in his future.
Barry Jenkins (writer/director):
I don’t believe in tidy resolutions. I do think he’s more himself than he ever is in the film we see ― that, I’m absolutely, 1,000 percent sure of. Whether that’s married to Kevin, I can’t say. He’s a person who had a very difficult childhood and doesn’t have a lot of experience in relationships, so imagine trying to come home to that person seven days a week. What a fucking mess. But I do think, at heart, he’s a good dude, and I think this reconciliation with [Paula, his mother] and Kevin and their story is going to set him on the path toward being the good dude that he is.
Mahershala Ali (Juan, the neighborhood drug dealer who becomes a surrogate father to Chiron):
I see him having softened. He’s had to put on a lot of armor to make it through the crucible of adolescence, but the world, in some ways, is a lot safer as an adult. Being lonely as a child turns into you having the capacity to choose moments of being alone. It shifts as an adult. Once you mature and come to terms with who you are in a different way, you are empowered. As a young person, you really need a lot of help. You need people to usher you through and tell you that you’re OK. If you can make it through that time, as an adult you can begin to understand and have the capacity to take personal responsibility. You can still be victimized as an adult, no doubt ― it’s just a little easier, and I think Kevin has the last relationship or element or piece of information that he needs to finally open up to become who he actually needs to be. I think he will have softened and relaxed and lightened and come to terms with who he is, and for the first time know who he is. I have a lot of hope for him.
Janelle Monáe (Teresa, who becomes a surrogate mother to Chiron):
“Hopefully he and Kevin, hopefully they’re together. Hopefully they don’t have to hide their love for each other and they’re comfortable enough in their own skin that everyone who is also trying to deal with their own sexuality and whether or not to embrace it, especially if they’re gay, will look to them as examples of a positive union.”
Trevante Rhodes (adult Chiron):
I think about love on a scale from 1 to 10. Most of us find a 6 or a 7, and that’s why we have divorce. It’s the truth. We settle for that 6 or 7. But I like to think Kevin is Chiron’s 10. He’s found that and he realizes that there’s no reason to settle for a 6 or a 7 because, “I know this person is my 10. Whether or not this person believes I’m his 10, I’m going to devote my life to this person entirely.” That’s why the line where he says, “You’re the only man that’s ever touched me,” for me, was the most amazing, most beautiful thing I’ve seen in cinema, period. Because that’s what we strive for as people, to find that one person because they’re there. If Kevin doesn’t feel that they should be together, Chiron is just going to die a miserable person because that’s his person and he won’t settle for anything else. But I like to think they’re together, walking in Central Park hand-in-hand when they’re 90 years old.
André Holland (adult Kevin):
In my mind, I don’t know whether they’re going to end up as a couple, but they’re going to live authentic lives. I have this image of them walking along with Kevin’s son and teaching him, either overtly or experientially, about what masculinity is and what it means to be a man, in all the variations that are possible. That, to me, is the magic of it, that there’s a young boy in the world who will grow up with a different idea of masculinity than either of them had.
“Moonlight” is now open in select theaters. It expands to wide release on Nov. 4.