"At some point, you’ve got to decide for yourself who you’re going to be."
On Jan. 8, 2017, "Moonlight" won Best Motion Picture — Drama at the Golden Globe Awards.
The film follows the life of Chiron, an African-American boy born into poverty in Southern Florida, as he wrestles with his sexual identity, dangerous bullies at school, and growing up with an abusive, drug-addicted mom.
Shedding a light on the powerful forces of race, class, homophobia, and addiction, "Moonlight" offers the type of unique perspective that doesn't just tug at heartstrings and win awards — it challenges us to think critically about important issues, too.
Here are four powerful moments in “Moonlight” that illustrate just how important the film really is:
1. You see the gut-wrenching realities of bullying among kids who are, or who are perceived to be, LGBTQ.
In the film, young Chiron (played by Alex R. Hibbert) is forced to hide in an abandoned building after being chased down by boys slinging homophobic slurs.
Later in the film, the bullies are more successful. When teenaged Chiron (played by Ashton Sanders) is in high school, he's brutally beaten up by someone he believed to be a friend. That gut-wrenching scene ends in bloodshed.
Bullying is a problem for many, especially LGBTQ youth, who are 91% more likely than their heterosexual peers to be bullied, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2015.
Seeing bullying play out on the big screen brings that statistic to life.
2. You see how the power of addiction can rip apart families and destroy childhoods.
At one point, teenage Chiron is assaulted by his mother (Naomie Harris), who begs him for cash in order to feed her drug addiction.
It's a gripping scene that shows how addiction can transform even the most doting parent into a physical and emotional abuser. It also reflects an America grappling with its own addiction crises with opioids and heroin.
3. You see the complexity in people and why even the "bad guys" can turn out to be the heroes.
In the film, Chiron befriends prominent Miami drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), who ends up feeding him, housing him, and accepting him for who he is — regardless of Chiron's sexual orientation.
While Juan's work in the drug industry has inarguably caused harm — you can see its direct effect on Chiron's own mother — you also see how Juan's compassion saves Chiron, helping him survive his tumultuous childhood.
"At some point, you’ve got to decide for yourself who you’re going to be," Juan says in a pivotal moment on screen. "You can’t let nobody make that decision for you."
4. You see Chiron kiss a boy, Kevin (Jharrel Jerome), on the beach...
...and then come back to his hometown as an adult (played by Trevante Rhodes) years later to find Kevin (André Holland) once again.
It's still too rare to see same-sex love on screen — especially LGBTQ love scenes between young men of color.
Media representation matters. And to thousands of boys and men watching the complicated, contentious, and beautiful scenes between Chiron and Kevin, "Moonlight" has made a difference.
Stories like Chiron's matter. And it's not every day that films like "Moonlight" get the Hollywood recognition they deserve.
Congratulations to the cast and crew of "Moonlight" — not only on their Golden Globe win, but for creating a piece of art that will stay in the hearts and minds of many for years to come.