Zach a.m.’s review published on Letterboxd:
Moonlight is an incredible work of immeasurable calm and maturity. An introspective and intimate exploration of identity told with an Anthony Hopkins in The Remains of a Day level of restraint. It masks vigorous passion with soft-spoken exteriors. A movie that expresses itself more with glances and the occasional touch rather than through words.
Expectations for this were raised so monumentally that I feel I have anything to add to the conversation. I can say I enjoyed it -- although a little less than I hoped I might considering the lofty critical heights it has risen to. There were some moments of Chrion's life, the twitchy, teenage years, that I wanted to yell at the screen to offer me more. Part of that is what made the third act, or the third section, really resonate for me. I thought it really brought it all home.
The transition Chrion makes from nervous, skinny teenager, to the muscular, much more imposing confident man he becomes, is like being hit with a wave of cool air on a hot, humid night. Lots of small details in that final section that really tie the movie together. The way Chrion has modelled himself on his surrogate father figure, Juan (played effortlessly by Mahershala Ali) by adopting a do-rag and a muscle car for instance tells you how important he was in his life. Or the fact that he chose 'Black305' as his Georgia license plate, it really tells you where, despite the obvious physical growth, where his mind really is. And that is what makes the reunion with Kevin, the only person he claims to have ever let touch him, and in a sense ever really get to know the real him the real Chrion, so affecting at the end. The way Chrion reverts back to his nervous self is also a really gifted bit of acting from Trevante Rhodes too, who among many involved in this movie, feels like the breakout star.
A lot of other little thing I like about this movie. The lush use of blues. The scene where little Chrion gets taught to swim/baptised by Juan. The look on Juan's face after he has to explain to little Chrion what a faggot is as well as admitting he sells drugs to his mother. You cross into some dangerously cliched material there with the 'drug dealer with a heart of gold' but that's a moment that really wrecks you. I like the stark contrast between Chrion's real mother and his surrogate mother, played by the angel Janelle Monae. Being raised by a poor single-mother is no picnic, you're constantly caught between two affections -- to stay, and help, and wanting to runaway. That's a dilemma that really resonates with me.
On the whole it's a quiet, meditative flawless kind of movie. It didn't 'pop' the way I thought it would but I definitely get a sense I'll be seeing it again.