Moonlight is a film about acceptance of self. We meet our protagonist, a very young and terrified Chiron, back in the 80s, being chased by bullies in their black neighbourhood where drugs are rampant. Upon finding a father figure in Juan (Mahershala Ali) and a surrogate mother in Juan's girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae), he also finds a safe space away from his abusive mother Paula (Naomie Harris), who is an addict. From there begins his exploration of himself, which is aided greatly by Juan and Teresa's advice to be proud of who he is. He finds nurture and care which, despite his heartbreaking realisation about Juan's identity, helps him greatly.
We then meet Chiron as a teenager, during which time a horrific incident defines his adulthood. It is a complete turn from his earlier persona. Even his teenage love, one that gave him one of the most special moments of his life, and then traumatised him beyond which he has not been able to move on, cannot believe the transformation. The anguish of that betrayal, of not being able to demand what he knows he deserves, and the ugly consequences of toxic masculinity, homophobia, drugs, parental abuse, and racism leave deep scars on his psyche.
The spaces for a child to seek kind counsel, love, protection are so rare in communities that have always been sidelined not just by the society but also by the establishments, that there do not seem to be many ways out of the quagmire in which they live. We begin to stereotype on the basis of too many such examples, but we forget that we, with our constant neglect, prejudice and ignorance, have led to this scenario where life almost always ends up the same way for them.
However, how Chiron finds resolution in the end is a truly remarkable moment in cinema. It is not big bang, dawning on him like an epiphany. It comes from expression, from speaking out his heart even though he is afraid. We do not know how things go on from there, but when he overcomes that part of him holding him back, he frees us all.