A very well-made character piece. Really liked the use of colour here. Some really great performances. The three different actors for the protagonist across the films triptych structure didn’t always sync up in the sense of feeling like the same person, but all gave strong performances in their own right.
The film is remarkably free of cliche or didacticism, as is the wont of so many superficially similar films released around the same period of the year. It’s just a strong character piece, tracking one man across three important phases of his life, but these phases aren’t the big superficial elements one might feel a movie about this subject matter might track. They’re quieter than that, those moments that mean a lot to a person internally but wouldn’t land on the list of conventional “biggest events in one’s life”. It’s similar to “Boyhood” in that way. “Moonlight” has more ambitions than that film though, trying to depict the cyclical nature of what destroys a lot of lives and families in certain American neighbourhoods. It does this well, though sometimes at the cost of developing its actual characters a bit more.
That sort of focus would make you think the film is small-scale, but it’s oddly broad in a lot of ways. It’s so committed to it’s episodic structure that a lot of the characters come across as archetypal and thin. In a lot of ways it’s three short films, and short films have a lot less room and time to develop characters or story. Each of those three short films is fantastic, but I feel the film just doesn’t quite hit that level of cohesion and unity to make them coalesce into a proper whole.
Still, all my issues with the film are basically those big-picture writing concerns. Taken independently, pretty much every scene of the film features remarkable acting and remarkable visuals, and that’s more than good enough for me. I give it three and a half wooden chairs, and the Chef’s special.