mattmav45’s review published on Letterboxd:
It's time to be "that guy".
The story chronicles the life of a young black man as he attempts to come into his own. It gives the viewer a brief glimpse of his life as a young boy, as a teen, and finally as a young adult. It would seem that the stars are in fact aligning for a superior cinematic viewing experience, but I'll be damned if the execution within doesn't quite maximize the potential.
The main character of this film (Little, Chiron, and Black) is defined by his lack of character. It's a film that portrays a young man who hasn't been given the opportunity to fully gain self-actualization. As a result, this film isn't so much about him, but rather about all the dynamics prohibiting him from coming into his own as a man. This is ultimately where the film's flaws begin.
The film touches on a variety of dynamics (mom is addicted to crack, sexual orientation, bullying, etc.) but fails to do so in a way that feels unique. On their own, these themes can be powerful if given the proper weight and attention. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that here. It kind of feels like a collage of issues that don't mesh well together.
This is one of those few viewings which could have benefited from a longer running time. I enjoyed the splitting of life into three distinct stages, but I don't think enough time was given for each period to truly gain power. It feels episodic and even somewhat familiar at times. In the end I feel the dynamics are handled with far too much simplicity.
It's well-made and undeniably well-acted, but, subjectively speaking, I'll be damned if it doesn't fully achieve what it sets out to do.