A few weeks ago we watched Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, for class. The 2017 Oscar winner for Best Picture, this movie follows the life of Chiron through his time as a child, teenager, and young adult. In the film, Chiron wrestles with bullying, his mother’s drug addiction, and his sexuality. As a child, Chiron meets Juan, a drug dealer who becomes a mentor/father figure in his life. After being beaten up by his friend/sort of lover (who was forced to by the main bully at their school), Chiron breaks and retaliates against the bully by hitting him over the head with a chair. He goes to juvenile corrections where he meets someone involved in a drug gang, and, after release, Chiron also becomes part of such a gang. He eventually leads a drug gang.
Though we watched it as a gangster movie because of Chiron’s eventual joining then leading a drug gang, as well as Juan’s role as a drug gang leader, one of the things that stood out the most to me was that the movie did not seem to really be about a gangster. It did show how events in Chiron’s life pushed him into his role in the gang, but it focused a lot on his sexuality and personal relationships. Admittedly, those personal relationships and the issues he faced due to his sexuality pushed him into his life of crime. So perhaps I am wrong. When you look at the fact that the personal relationships were what led him to his gang activity, this movie becomes exclusively the story of a gangster. It shows how a good kid who has seen the disastrous effects of a drug addiction can end up as a leader in a drug gang.
Overall, the movie was beautifully made and presented a micro-level (to use criminological terms) examination of the cause of gang activity. Chiron faces many struggles in his life, and the sum total of these leads to his becoming a gang member. Moonlight reminds the viewer of how difficult life can be and encourages a lack of judgment of anyone because you never know what they may have faced in life.