In his highly anticipated follow-up to the award-winning Tangerine, filmmaker Sean Baker makes a sincere but wholly unsentimental foray into a community living on the margins of American society. In the process, we encounter two of the most unforgettable characters in the cinema this year: 22-year-old Halley (Bria Vinaite), and her six-year-old daughter, Moonee (Brooklynn Prince).
Halley and Moonee live in a cheap motel near an Orlando freeway, a stone’s throw from a cartoon-inspired theme park. That park—and every piece of mythology, consumerism, and fantasy it represents—might as well be on Mars for this mother and daughter, as Halley struggles to keep menial jobs to put a $35-a-night roof over their heads and sugary cereal on the table. Although her mother grapples with impulse control and a sad bewilderment at her chaotic life, Moonee grabs every day by the tail, corralling her pals from the next motel over to explore abandoned buildings, grift ice cream, and exuberantly prank the motel staff, most notably the ever-patient Bobby (Willem Dafoe, The Grand Budapest Hotel). When life takes a further downward spiral, Moonee’s defiant, no-holds-barred love for her mother defines her uncertain future.
Baker’s immersive examination of lives lived in the shadow of a fantasy world holds no clichéd, feel-good lessons about love or families. Instead, it boldly takes us to a place where momentary joys, a mother’s devotion, and a spirited girl called Moonee can find a home.
“An astonishingly fine movie about the vagaries and frolics of childhood as seen largely through the eyes of its pint-sized protagonists.” (Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor)
“This movie accomplishes something almost miraculous—two things actually. It casts a spell and tells the truth.” (A.O. Scott, The New York Times)
“It’s that honesty that makes The Florida Project so powerful. This is a remarkable film, one of the best of the year.” (Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com)
“The Florida Project won’t let us look away. Nor, given its brilliance, would we want to. Instead, we laugh, we watch silently, and we’re challenged to stop simplifying people’s lives so we can offer easy theoretical answers.” (Alissa Wilkinson, Vox)