Rti03’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Do you remember the last time we met?"
Through its three separate segments Moonlight paints the tale of a delicate young child, named Chiron, and his progression into adulthood. The first chapter (i.e ‘Little’) is set in the late 80’s and finds ten year old Chiron trying to make it through the day in his hometown in Miami; the middle paragraph (i.e ‘Chiron’) follows him through his teenage years and finally the concluding episode (i.e ‘Black’) presents Chiron’s figure as a young man. Together these three different chapters build a beautifully sensitive cinematic poem as Moonlight is an exercise of rare quietness and grace.
Long since his childhood Chiron was held as an outcast; almost entirely neglected by his mother (performed by show-stealer Naomie Harris) and heavily bullied by other kids at school, the little man soon became a child of very few words – as a matter of fact it took more than just a couple of sequences until we finally heard his curbed voice. Already at a tender age he’s being repressed and put aside merely because he was gentler. He cannot comprehend why others chase him or why he’s perceived as some sort of alien. Thus, to safeguard himself from the hostile environment in which he lives, he decides to retreat and hide who he is. Comfort and understanding only appear in the figure of two complete strangers: Juan (played with sensibility by Mahershala Ali; though I nevertheless ask myself if such an enactment is worthy of its already won Academy Award) and his girlfriend Teresa (the lovely Janelle Monáe). They offer him the sort of unconditional love he had never received.
When the second chapter begins to unfold we realize that Chiron’s reality has not gotten any prettier now that he’s a teenager. At school the bullying is more violent and at home the support is virtually non-existent; he has hit rock-bottom. ”You don’t even get it” he says to a school counselor after being severely battered by other students. Chiron is left isolated and desolated too, feeling as if no understands what it is like to walk in his shoes. Be that as it may, he finds in longtime friend, and crush, Kevin a light. For a moment everything fades and all that’s left is radiance and compassion. Their rendezvous set by the ocean could easily and mistakably be described in a crude fashion; what’s displayed is much more than just a sexual play. The weight of every touch, and the way in which every caress slowly breaks Chiron’s wall of insecurity and self-doubt, is felt. Captured with utter delicacy and elegance, the sea breeze travelled across the room as this young boy’s heart was being healed. That moment would forever stay with him no matter how hard he tried to forget.
The closing chapter finds a now adult Chiron in Atlanta; which is where he was sent after having pummeled his aggressor to the ground (it must be noted that that same moment is one of unmeasurable power). Chiron, a silent and fragile boy whose figure was previously paper thin, is absolutely unrecognizable. He has a muscular physique, he wears golden fronts and he drives a gangster car. He has the appearance of a thug and the truth is that he has become a dope dealer. This is an unexpected but all the more fascinating plot and character maneuver – Chiron’s present image contrasts, the same way black does with white, with the first reflection we get of him as a kid. He used to be harmless but, in order to survive in an environment characterized by its vehement hostility, he went through a complete metamorphosis.
Chiron may well be a feared thug who has learned to adapt to the reality that surrounds him but that doesn’t mean that the delicate child he once was is not a part of him. When Kevin calls him, a decade or so after the events set on the beach, he’s immediately hit by a tide of memories and emotions, seeing that he was the only person with whom he had intimacy with. I believe that that’s what he sought when he drove to Miami – he desired to find the acceptance he had only found in his arms. Chiron’s life experience and suburban milieu made him be unsure of who he was and who he thrived to be. For the sake of avoiding pain, and quite simply just to live, he was forced to play a role that wasn’t his. His final encounter with Kevin doesn’t provide a happy ending, and its gratification may not be immediate, but the monumental value of the actions resonates. At last he finds solace and acceptance.