A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Your circumstances don't define you. And if you're lucky enough to find love, it may help you rise above a difficult beginning. Themes include compassion and perseverance.
Positive Role Models
All of the characters are complicated. But that complication includes strengths. For example, young Little's determination to find role models despite being surrounded by neglect and violence. Also, Juan watching a kid who's not his own (a surprising act of kindness from a drug dealer). And Little Kevin's compassion for a peer who doesn't seem to be welcome in his social circle.
Written and directed by Black filmmaker Barry Jenkins and adapted from a semi-autobiographical play by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The film celebrates Black boyhood as much as it depicts the realities of growing up in extreme poverty. Black characters are portrayed with nuance and depth. Homophobic slurs thrown at soft-spoken Chiron reflect a culture of toxic masculinity, yet the love he's shown by his father figure Juan and schoolmate Kevin reveals how tenderness can also exist. Chiron and Kevin grapple with their queerness in different ways, as their friendship slowly develops into something more intimate. Chiron's mother, Paula, struggles with addiction, which could be considered a stereotypical depiction of a Black single mother. The experience of being incarcerated is also referenced though not shown on-screen.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
Not much gore but plenty of menace. Characters are growing up in a drug-infested neighborhood where it's not clear who's an ally and who's an enemy. There are fistfights (one results in a bloody face), guns are drawn, and a drug-addled mother screams at her young child. One character attacks a classmate with a chair; schoolyard fights erupt and explode quickly into bullying, stark violence, and more.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
References to sexual acts; in a dream sequence, a teen boy appears to be having sex with his girlfriend (it's clear what's happening, but viewers don't see any nudity). Two young men make out (and more), though, again, we don't see much.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Frequent use of everything from "damn" to "hell," "s--t," "d--k," "bitch," and "f--k."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Mentions include Chef Boyardee and Spaghetti-Os.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drinking and pot-smoking by underage boys. One character is shown freebasing crack cocaine. Later, two men share bottles of wine.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Moonlight is a moving coming-of-age drama that deals with intense subjects, including growing up in extreme poverty with a drug-addicted mom, drug dealing, bullying, and prison time. Most importantly, it tells of a young Black man's discovery of his sexuality in a world in which he feels helpless, out of control, and alone. Scenes include drug use (crack cocaine and weed) and social drinking. Language is strong but not constant; words include "s--t," "f--k," and more. Two scenes hint at sexual activity among teens; there's no nudity, but it's clear what's happening. Themes include compassion and perseverance, and, ultimately, the movie's message is a hopeful one: Your circumstances don't define you. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
It's difficult to distill the power, grace, and grit that make this drama so unforgettable. Anchored by profoundly stunning performances from the entire ensemble, Moonlight manages successfully to be so many things at once -- a tough coming-of-age movie set in a rough part of Miami, an inspiring tale of a child so resourceful that he finds the light in the darkest of worlds, and a story of love and friendship. From the opening moments, it's clear that director Barry Jenkins is the capable captain of this ship, steering it through three main sections of Chiron's life. There's nothing at all contrived about it; the structure serves to illuminate the three stages of Chiron's life while ensuring that they're all connected.
The power of this movie is in how it strips all its characters of clichés, even if the situations they face have been seen in cinema many times before. The addict mom who barely takes care of her son is also a mom who loves him deeply; the drug dealer who kindly takes interest in a lost child can also be the intimidating criminal; and the pumped-up 20-something ex-con can also be a closeted gay man who longs for love. Bravo to Jenkins for juggling all of this beautifully. Moonlight is a beacon for those still trying to figure out who they are and how to become that person -- as well as for those who've already undergone that very difficult journey and come out on the other side. It's a triumph.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.