Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune calls this film "extraordinary," because of "the film medium's secret weapons: restraint, quiet honesty, fluid imagery..."
His definition of 'restraint' must be 'excruciatingly slow.' By 'quiet honesty' he must be talking about all those many scenes where the camera lingers on someone who's not speaking, and by 'fluid imagery'...well, I can only imagine what that means.
I truly thought this film was going to be a gem, and was shocked when under an hour into it I was looking at my watch. Things move very slowly here.
In the first act Chiron is about eight and is befriended by (of all people) his mother's drug dealer, and the drug dealer's lady. But somewhere along the way (in the second act) the drug dealer is gone and we only know he died because Chiron's mother mentions a funeral.
There's one more scene with the drug dealer's lady, so you know she's still in his life, but than pfffft! she's gone. What happened to her? We never know.
So then he gets beaten up (this happens regularly in his life) and retaliates and goes to Juvie.
And in the third act he's in his 20s and has moved to Atlanta with his drug addict mom and has turned into the drug dealer who befriended him - same car, same dashboard ornament, same necklace, and those gold teeth that shout "I'm a drug dealer!"
In the end (spoiler alert) he meets up with with his childhood friend who's now a cook in a restaurant in Miami (where they grew up), whom he's been in love with all these years.
Yes, there's a gay theme. Sort of.
He goes to the restaurant where this guy cooks and they reconnect. Kevin, the friend, wants to cook for him and asks him what he wants. "Or do you want the chef's special?" he asks. And a man in the audience says (loud), "Yeah, give it to him," which was very funny. Many people laughed, so you can see what the mood was.
I can't blame the actors for their performances, tho I want to. It's all about the directing. And the writing, but less so.
Two stars out of five for Moonlight.
(But I bet it'll be nominated for a bunch of Academy Awards.)