„Moonlight” follows the life of an insecure and vulnerable boy during different periods of his life. The action takes place in the tough, vice- and crime-imbued Miami, but the people who yearn for sentiment, should not be disheartened and discouraged to go to the cinema, as the film focuses more on human relationships and on how to become or remain oneself in this maze of connections.
The first two parts of the film about Chiron’s childhood and teenage years come across as somewhat lifeless and have a bit of a hollow feel to them. The episodes necessary to reach the final act are executed mechanically, performing different scenes studiously. The people surrounding Chiron have been depicted very flatly with each of them representing only one trait and being enviably consistent at that. For example, the school bullies are utterly evil and pesky all the time, they are given no room for any other characteristic or activity. The only interesting and multi-faceted character here is the drug dealer Juan, who gradually begins to look after Chiron and teaches him the wisdoms of life. Ali received the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this excellent role and, in this light, it may be said that not for nothing.
At times, it gets a bit boring watching this textbook performance of bad characters, but the intermediary dreamlike and poetic shots offer some refreshment, as they may refer, if you really put your mind to it, to how people move around a little stiffly and as if in dream when ending up in an uncomfortable and inappropriate role in life. Nothing unnecessary is shown, but it is difficult to relate to the characters, find a contact with them, when they are like machines or parts of a machine that fit perfectly into the scheme and fulfil their function with emotionless straightforwardness.
The objective of these studious scenes and undeviating fulfilling of functions becomes apparent only in the third part, where Chiron has become a street-cruising drug dealer who is seemingly hard, but at heart still vulnerable and weak. Nevertheless, something starts to work and matter for the viewer and it becomes visible where this orchestrated life of artificial characters has led. Excitingly, Chiron comes across as the most authentic, credible, and, thank goodness, finally the most interesting specifically in the third part, where he takes action and starts to playact himself, having shaped an exterior of a person he is not, decorating himself with golden teeth and a cool car. When the depiction of the inevitable submission to everyday life of the first two parts came across as theatrical and forced, the fake poseur of the third part seems much more sincere and attractive, as it is no longer about finding spiritual balance or oneself, but only being a shell from which one can go forward in different directions.