Moonlight: What it Looks Like to be Bathed in God’s Grace

Josh Larsen

Josh Larsen
February 24, 2017

Cinematography is theology in Moonlight, a Best Picture nominee at this year's Oscars.

February 25, 2017

Really appreciate the point of view from which this was written. It avoids being too self-consciously religious (overly, achingly pious) on the one hand, and so liberal as to blur all distinctions on the other hand.
I see few enough films that this commentary helps me focus on the ones that are worthwhile. Thanks

Toby Woollaston
February 26, 2017

Hi Josh, I love your take on Moonlight. I know plenty who would steer clear of the film because of they averse to its content. Such a shame.

I read a comment on Facebook the other day. It was a response to seeing Moonlight. It said; “Another 5 star movie for me this year, but perhaps not for everyone.” The movie goer is a Christian and acknowledged that it was a good film. However, I’m unsure if the comment “but perhaps not for everyone” was a warning to the conservative Christian fraternity to stay clear, or simply that the film, aesthetically, is an acquired taste. Either way, it raises some interesting points about how trawling the hard yards through topics that you are averse to is a learning process and can offer interesting and often heartfelt insights about people. It’s an arduous lesson and I like to think of it as a form of tough love on the movie goer, a lesson, and a process that we as Christians should make dutifully in order to understand and love people. Indeed, not everyone will enjoy Moonlight, but I think everyone should see it. Certainly, I believe Christians (of which I am one) might learn a lot from the film’s compassionate account of humanity. It is a film that for the most part doesn’t take sides on the topic of Homosexuality — it doesn’t appear to force any opinion on the subject, but simply gives an honest and authentic account of one man’s struggle with it.

Love thy neighbour. Be more selfless. Empathise with people. Understand peoples desires and pain. Moonlight offers an opportunity to practice this.

March 1, 2017

Finally watched this last night. I have to say, your reflections here are absolutely spot-on. And to those readers who are reluctant to watch this film because of the homosexual content, I'd simply say that it's far, far less uncomfortable to watch than you probably expect. Your witness won't be damaged in the slightest by watching this important film, and I can't honestly imagine a more honest and non-in-your-face treatment of the subject. Even a socially conservative Christians like me can benefit from the far more important themes of this film without being distracted by that particular element. And when you're done watching it, you don't even really feel like you need to address that aspect...because it's not really ABOUT homosexuality. It's, as you so well put it here, about grace and identity.

And that's actually the part that I found myself meditating on the most: who will Chiron decide to be when others show him unexpected grace? Both Juan's and Kevin's grace toward Chiron challenge his sense of personal identity, and both invite and empower him to be something more than he thinks possible for himself.

Reconciliation is a major theme of the third segment, too. For me the most powerful scene in the movie was the part where Chiron chooses to forgive his mother (or at least that's what's implied). It's powerful because it's the only scene where Chiron himself has an opportunity to be the light of grace for another--and we're left to imagine the transformative effect it will undoubtedly have on his mother as she starts down a new life path herself.

Grace does that, though. It's transformative. It changes your identity. Christians should appreciate that better than most.

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