BFI London Film Festival: The Florida Project

The Florida Project
The Florida Project
Directed by Sean Baker
Starring Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Kimberly Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, Christopher Rivera and Caleb Landry Jones
Screening at LFF October 13th, 14th 2017

by Joanna Orland

The Florida Project is a beautifully executed slice-of-life feature about children living below the poverty line. Not at all as gloomy as its premise may suggest, the film is as humourously uplifting as it is a gutting reminder of the unfortunate state of some of America’s youth. Moonee (Prince) is a blissfully happy 6 year old girl, with an unemployed mother, a motel room as a residence, and very little prospects in life. The joy and beauty of this film comes from Moonee’s own joy in life, as she and her friends don’t fully realize the direness of their situation.

The Florida Project spends a summer vacation with Moonee and her friends Sooty and Jancey, watching them play the days away in the shadow of Disneyworld. The juxtaposition of Moonee’s situation with that of the “American Dream” of Disney lurking in the shadows is subtly and poignantly portrayed by director Sean Baker. As The Magic Kingdom sits down the road from Moonee, she lives in a hotel called The Magic Castle, while her mother preys on tourists for financial assistance. Moonee is surrounded by reminders of what she cannot have – cheap Disneyfied souvenir shops are everywhere, and Moonee frolics in fields which display road signs leading to “Seven Dwarfs Lane”. It’s not as overt as it may sound, but the imagery is still a stark reminder of the contrast between the rich and the poor.

Watching Moonee play with her friends, begging tourists for money to buy one ice cream which the three of them share, causing mischief left right and centre, is somehow a delight to watch. Prince is absolutely hilarious, adorable and heartbreaking as Moonee in what is easily the performance of the year. Willem Dafoe also gives a career best performance as a reluctant father-figure to the residents of the motel. He watches over the kids when the parents neglect to, he tries to do best by his tenants, and is overall a true hero in this film. His own life is touched upon as interactions with his son (Landry Jones) depict a fraught relationship, one that he perhaps tries to make amends for by watching over the children of The Magic Castle.

The Florida Project is as optimistic and humourous as it is sad and harrowing: A wonderful poignant film about the social divide and the triumph of the human spirit. It is a must-see!


Leave a Reply