The Florida Project (2017)

The Florida Project
Director: Sean Baker
Writer: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
Cast: Brooklynn Prince, Christopher Rivera, Aiden Malik, Josie Olivo, Valeria Cotto, Edward Pagan, Bria Vinaite, Patti Wiley, Jasineia Ramos, Willem Dafoe, Caleb Landry Jones
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 31.10.2017

Six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) lives with her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) in a motel at the edge of Disney World. As Halley struggles to just get by, Moonee has a lot of room to roam the premises, always half-watched by the motel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe). Together with her best friend Scooty (Christoph Rivera) and newcomer Jancey (Valeria Cotto) and some other kids, they spend the summer out in the world, discovering everything.

The Florida Project is a film that perfectly captures the children’s perspective and through their eyes, tries to figure out how much space children need and how much is too much. It’s pretty damn wonderful.

After Tangerine, I really really wanted to see The Florida Project. Due to scheduling problems, my only chance was the breakfast screening at 6.30am. I wanted to see it so much, that I went despite fearing I would just fall asleep right away again. Fortunately, the film had me enthralled pretty much straight away, so there was never any risk at all.

Baker has a knack for a) choosing settings that we usually don’t get in mainstream cinema and b) choosing people that feel very familiar with these settings and c) giving them room to do their own thing which allows for both realism and a fresh perspective. In this case, it’s children from low-income families whose lives we get to explore (in a simply fantastic looking location); and Baker sticks to their perspective firmly (reminding me of Die beste aller Welten in that way).

As an adult watching, of course we see the risks that are involved in the unsupervised way Moonee goes through the world (in the film’s only hamfisted moment, these risks include a stereotypical pedophile who tries to approach the children). But what Baker shows just as clearly is how much the children also thrive in their playing and their development when they get this space. Thus the question of where to draw the line between freedom and neglect becomes a central one in the film and is discussed without judgement for the parents who do try to do right by the children.

The film culminates in one of the most emotional endings I have ever seen, becoming even more harrowing by continuing to stick to Moonee’s perspective. It has the potential to really wreck you, but at the same time, I’m confident that Moonee can and will weather any storm.

Summarizing: Really great.

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