It can, and I wish more movies would spend 10 minutes finding beautiful images and showing them to us.
My point was that of the film's 110 minutes, 10 (mmmaybe) were spent on scenes/images that weren't directly related to progressing story and revealing character. But the rest was definitely story and character, while maintaining the excellent visuals of the true diversions.
Jenkins was leaving his imprint on the movie. Some might argue that a director shouldn't do that, that they should focus on telling the story first and foremost, but story first and foremost often makes for dull, or at least unmemorable, movies. Kubrick, Scorsese, Lynch, Ridley Scott, Coppola, Refn, McQueen, Villeneuve, all those guys spend time on finding beauty in their films, sometimes in ways that disrupt or even halt the narrative. But that kind of thing really does serve a story purpose. When an image sticks in the viewer's mind, then their relationship to the story becomes that much deeper. I would not feel as much as I did for Chiron if his journey had not been so beautiful. Same is true for Deckard in Blade Runner, Jesus in The Last Temptation, Sailor & Lula in Wild at Heart, Gosling in Drive, Fassbender in Shame, Amy Adams in Arrival... I could go on. I like lists.
Anyway, it's clear we have vastly different takes on the movie, but I felt like I needed to defend it. It really moved me, and Barry Jenkins's direction was a big part of why.