I was trying to describe Moonlight to a friend after I got back from the theater.
I told her critics are probably calling it lyrical and graceful, which it is, even though it’s the story of a great violence.
I told her it was a bildungsroman, but that was a stall; I told her it was the story of a black gay man growing up Miami.
I told her it was the movie embodiment of its poster, that it too is striking and beautiful. Beautifully constructed, beautifully colored.
I told her that I cried.
And that the first time I cried was watching little Chiron, when he was still Little, being taught how to swim by his kind and complicated father figure, a drug dealer, floating on his back in the ocean while Juan cradles his head and promises that he has him, that he won’t let him drown — and knowing that the rest of the world is not making this promise.
I cried on this beach again, under the moonlight, where black boys look blue, and I cried at the end, long after Little had become Black, at this moment built of the two that had come before, Little looking back, Black and blue.
It becomes increasingly hard to describe. It is not a hard movie, but it is about hard things.
What is strengthening about Moonlight, what makes you feel clearer and brightened after your tears, isn’t from watching the events that take place, but from being able to watch them at all. From being able to go to a movie theater and watch this story, and watch it told with a magical unguarded delicacy.
In the end, I’m not sure if I can describe Moonlight. But Hilton Als has written about it, so go see it, and then go to him.