Miami in the eighties: nine-year-old Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert) has it anything but easy. At school, the slight boy is constantly beaten up by his classmates and at home, his single crack-addicted mother Paul (Naomie Harris) is waiting for him. Only his best friend Kevin (Jaden Piner) seems to stick with the boy. One day, while hiding from his classmates, Chiron meets the dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), who takes him home and slowly builds up the boy. It is Juan of all people who supply Chiron’s mother with drugs.
Seven years later, Chiron’s (Ashton Sanders) life hasn’t gotten any easier: his mother’s drug problems have worsened and Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) remains the only beacon of hope at school. When the two 16-year-old boys become intimate one night at the beach, it has a lasting effect on Chiron. Ten years later, Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) is still wrestling with the feelings that were unleashed that evening. Chiron, who now earns his money as a drug dealer, decides to visit Kevin (André Holland).
Split into three episodes, Moonlight is a stirring character study of a gay African American male growing up in a harsh environment. Three different actors play the protagonist convincingly and their performances don’t make the film seem choppy at all. Director Barry Jenkins has created a very human film that touches and doesn’t let go. One of the best films of the year.