Mike Torchic’s review published on Letterboxd:
Moonlight is the tragic story of Chiron, told in three chapters of his life. If someone asked me to summarize this film, I'd say that. Moonlight is a film that conveys so much in so little words.
The plot follows Chiron (AKA Little AKA Black) in three periods of his life. It shows him as a young child, a high schooler, and a young man. In these time periods you see him deal with his emotionally abusive mother, the assholes at school and his friendship with a fellow student, Kevin. The film is a masterpiece in my eyes. The decision to tell the story in three periods adds to the depth of our main character Chiron. The film is ultimately a character study of Chiron, seeing him grow and develop within these circumstances he's handed. He's a man of few words who's looking to find himself throughout the entire film. You almost see him as a fish out of water. He lives in a drug fueled part of Miami, where everyone is high and people are loud and obnoxious. But then you see Chiron, a quiet, introverted man who doesn't know where he belongs. Even at the end of the film you feel that he still hasn't "found" himself. And then there's his friend Kevin. Like Chiron, you see him in three stages of his life. I don't want to give too much away about the role they play in each other's lives. There is also some great supporting characters like Juan, a drug dealer who takes the young Chiron under his wing. Also there's Paula, Chiron's emotionally abusive mother. Both of these characters contribute to the development of his character in both good and bad ways. One thing I liked about this film is that it's an emotional film, but the emotion is conveyed in very few words. It's all about the body language as opposed to words being spoken. The actors performances, as well as some of the technical aspects make this feel natural and authentic. The plot to this film is superb, with Barry Jenkins crafting a story with heart and hardships. It's a difficult film to get to because of its relatability, but the end result is worth it.
The cast is phenomenal. Each actor that played Chiron did their best and was pretty damn great. I felt that Ashton Sanders who played High School age Chiron gave a great performance, as did Trevante Rhodes with adult Chiron. Both of them portrayed the quiet, meek Chiron perfectly and with a lot of heart as well. I also have to commend Alex Hibbert for giving a great performance as young Chiron. Probably the best child actor in the film. André Holland is also great as Kevin, Chirons friend. Holland portrays the adult Kevin, who I believe is the best version of the character and best performance of the character. Mahershala Ali gives a great performance as Juan, a drug dealer that takes Chiron under his wing. While he isn't in the film for long, he is memorable enough and gives a damn good performance. I can possibly see him getting nominated for best supporting actor. Naomie Harris also gives a great performance as Paula, Chiron's mother. She's not a nice character, acting as the barrier between Chiron and what he could be as a person. Harris is great in this role and I can see her getting nominated for best supporting actress. In all honesty, none of the performances in this film are bad. Even the smallest of characters have their moments to shine.
The direction by Barry Jenkins is impeccable. The film feels real, without feeling like a documentary. A lot of the greatness of this film goes to James Laxton's cinematography. There are shots in this film that feel so vibrant. The way he uses neon light compliments this film very well and is pleasing to the eye. While there are some iffy shots with some shaky cam, the vibrancy of the other scenes makes up for it entirely. It's hard to put the cinematography into words, you just have to see the film. I'm eager to check out Jenkins other film since I loved this one.
The score by Nicholas Britell is great. The score is a bit minimalistic, sometimes using a single violin on a track. However, it's not about the amount of instruments, but about the impact. That single violin contributed so much emotion to the scene. What I'm trying to say is that the score may be minimal, but it has an impact on the tone of this film. There are also some rap songs used in this film, which fit nicely considering the atmosphere of this film.
Overall, Moonlight is a phenomenal film that conveys so much emotion while still telling a story that will have you in tears. While it may not be my favorite film of the year, it's still a film worthy of your time. You'll not be disappointed.