Big Tim’s review published on Letterboxd:
"You ain't got to love me, but you gonna know that I love you."
Moonlight is a fantastic film. It's almost so subtle and simplistic that it begs you to peel back its layers to find more hidden meaning. But it's not there, in a good way. It's simply a coming-of-age tale of a black man who grows up in a tough, urban environment and struggles with various relationships in his life, most importantly the one within himself with regards to his sexuality.
Barry Jenkins is a fearless filmmaker in Moonlight. He's basically an iconoclast who is breaking down preconceived notions about masculinity, especially with regards to African-Americans, and makes an open-hearted, tender film about a man trying to find his way and figure out who he is. Throughout the course of the film, we are introduced to Chiron, a boy who grows up poor in Miami with a crack-addicted mother and is constantly bullied for basically being different. He's a quiet kid overall and keeps that demeanor through his high school years, where he is continually bullied for his sexuality, which he explores with a boy named Kevin. Chiron is a boy who is angry, confused and pained by his life. We then finally meet Chiron as an adult and see the sum total of the choices and circumstances of his life.
Moonlight is as character-driven as it gets in terms of a coming-of-age film. It intentionally splits up the narrative between three distinct periods in the subject's life and shows the audience the various struggles he feels as he grows up. Before our very eyes, we see the challenges our main character goes through and grapples with as he finds his way in the world.
Tender is the word I'd use to describe the overall emotion in this movie, and it's because of the performances. The people who play Chiron over the course of his life deserve the most credit here. Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes portray Chiron at childhood, adolescence and adulthood, respectively, and each give nuanced, powerful and subtle performances in each period. Rhodes' performance especially breaks down the stereotypes of masculinity as Jenkins shows us vivid humanity in his character despite his tough exterior that's wondrous to behold. Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Jharrell Jerome and Andre Holland also put forth wonderfully interesting, subtle and heartfelt performances.
The only thing I had an issue with was the film's ending, which didn't give as complete a resolution as I would've liked worthy of the film as a whole. The film is beautiful, don't get me wrong, but its final moment deserved something a bit more complete than what was presented. There were a few moments in this film that made me well up, simply from the simple, yet painful, conversations and the real human drama up on screen. Moonlight is a film for everyone, a great, human story.