Star Rating:

The Florida Project

Actors: Brooklynn Prince, Valeria Cotto

Release Date: Friday 10th November 2017

Genre(s): Drama, Factual

Running time: 115 minutes

Six year-old Moonee (newcomer Brooklynn Prince) lives a care-free and fun-filled life alongside her friends in a motel complex in Florida. One summer, Moonee meets a young girl named Jancey (Valeria Cotto). After introducing her to all her favourite haunts, the two quickly become partners-in-crime. Day after day, the kids’ mischievous activities get them into varying degrees of trouble with motel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe). Moonee’s teenage mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite), is like her daughter in many ways – impressively bold and brash – but Moonee has no idea of the lengths her mother puts herself through in order for them to sustain their way of life.

Since debuting in Cannes last May, The Florida Project has been receiving wide acclaim, in particular for its compelling representation of childhood. The film also serves as a weighty commentary on life in the projects, where its inhabitants live in an inescapable situation, at the same time that wealthy tourists just a short drive away lead completely different lives (in this film, the area they live in is near Disney World). While The Florida Project is sweet, funny, and extremely easy to lose yourself in, somehow it just doesn’t stick after leaving the cinema, and frustratingly little happens for its 110 minute running length.

At the same time, there is much to praise in the film. The child actors are simply wonderful, with Prince in particular providing a revelation. Their daily antics, which are mischievous and occasionally smutty, but generally harmless, are a guilty pleasure to watch, and it’s easy to see how because there are no consequences for their actions, the children get closer and closer to real danger. At the same time, Moonee’s innocence is unravelled by the reality of survival, a narrative brought about by the lengths Halley goes through to provide for her child.

Speaking of Halley, actress Bria Vinaite is also deserving of high commendation for her portrayal of the cheeky and vulgar but consistently admirable young mother who in spite of having a laissez faire attitude to Moonee’s upbringing, does undoubtedly love her daughter. Moonee’s and her run-ins with Bobby are particularly amusing, and Dafoe is welcome back on the big screen in a leading role. While he doesn’t have as much screen time as other cast members, the character has a number of stand-out moments, in particular one scene which sees him step in when a mysteriously quiet man threatens the children’s play.

Engrossing, touching and funny, but probably not destined to be a classic.