Joey Traverso’s review published on Letterboxd:
There are works that come along in every medium of art that remind us of the power of that particular art form. For literature, James Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" comes to mind that really uses the power of writing to help display character development and thematic richness. Moonlight, similarly, embraces film as a storytelling medium.
Following a single character through three different periods of his life, Moonlight intelligently uses its cinematography and sound design to help communicate the psychological and emotional maturity of the character. As the character matures and grows, we not only see it through the performer, but we see it through the lens of director Barry Jenkins.
Yet, he never lets the style of the film overshadow its intimacy. Jenkins intelligently allows the wonderful cast room and time to breathe during takes. This makes the dialogue feel consistently natural and poignant, but this also allows the moments in between the lines of dialogue to really have an impact. Much more can be said about a character through silence than any spoken words can do, and Jenkins has a clear understanding of this.
The performances, style, and intimacy all aid a wonderful screenplay that not only subverts a conventional structure, but one that expertly explores the idea of identity, particularly in the context of masculinity. Despite the uniqueness of the characters and plot, the ideas and themes of Moonlight are universal. It makes the film easy to relate to, and even easier to become invested in.
In its narrative, in its understanding of cinematic storytelling, and in the way that these two things are so effortlessly compatible here, Moonlight is easily one of the best films of 2016. Though this is a work of fiction, there are few films that I have seen recently that ring as true.