Moonlight concludes at a cathartic moment: the camera closes in on Chiron comforted in loneliness by a lost love before cutting away to the visual of a smooth black head turning back to pierce the fourth wall, a dewey orb of darkness set against the moonlit seascape. The film's power is captured precisely in its conclusion as it provides no payoff, only the real succession and consequence of choices and mistakes made in a lifetime, plagued by an unyielding realism. This sentiment is echoed in its technical style. Moonlight takes the form of a series of moving moments that linger too long, a closeup that never relents, invading the audience with the harshness and helpless of every character's condition. It is a piece of cinema confirming substance to lie within the style, living in the music and the imagery, in the beauty of suggestion, nuance and interpretation. The dizzying concoction of grief, violence and torment, a carefully selected orchestra of events that culminate to an emotional climax where the film descends into a fever dream. Judgment blurs and characters act on whim and instinct and desire and the story is pushed into its next chapter.
There is a quality of the unremarkable in Moonlight's intrinsic story. A young boy is neglected by his crackhead mother, bullied as a teenager, finds solace in lust and intimacy and as an adult is empty, lost and lonely. But herein lies the distinctive power of Moonlight: its essential character of humanness. There is push to develop its characters beyond their short name: the crackhead mother and hard drug dealer are not incapable but merely constrained in their ability to give Chiron the love and care he needs. The specificity and smallness of its story prove no bar to its reach and relevance. It is a piece of cinema delicate and profound in its soulful resolution.