THE FLORIDA PROJECT [USA], THU 25 JANUARY, 8PM

By January 11, 2017 archive, Season 18 films

A child’s sense of wonder is at the heart of Sean Baker’s joyful story of people living on the impoverished fringes of Florida’s tourist traps. ★★★★

“The Florida Project is a song of innocence and of experience: mainly the former.  It is a glorious film in which warmth and compassion win out over miserabilism or irony, painted in bright blocks of sunlit colour like a child’s storybook and often happening in those electrically charged magic-hour urban sunsets that the director Sean Baker also gave us in his zero-budget breakthrough Tangerine.

This also has the best child acting I have seen for years in its humour and its unforced and almost miraculous naturalism.  These kids don’t look cute or over-rehearsed or rehearsed at all; they look as if everything they do and every word that comes out of their mouths is unscripted and real. Yet what they do also has the intelligence and artistry of acting. In his own grownup role, Willem Dafoe gives a performance of quiet excellence and integrity.

The drama is set in a budget motel in Florida in the shadow of Walt Disney World: one of many long-stay welfare places for transients and mortgage defaulters. But, for the little kids who live there, this rundown place does look weirdly like paradise, a place where one summer they enjoy pure, magical freedom, running around its walkways and stairwells and far afield into Florida’s unofficial countryside. These kids do something that is a distant memory for most of us: they roam (a word I hadn’t even thought of for years before seeing this film) just the way children were supposed to in some former age. They wander from dawn to dusk and have fun.

Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) is a fearless six-year-old girl whose mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) has failed to get work waitressing or lapdancing. Soon Halley may have to resort to a more obviously lucrative evening business from her motel room. As for Moonee, she can just hang out endlessly with loads of other kids like her friend Scooty (Christopher Rivera), whose own mom lets them have leftover food from the diner where she works.

Dafoe plays Bobby, the hotel manager, who is perennially irritated with late-paying, trash-talking Halley but looks out for her and is a veritable catcher in the rye for Moonee and all the other little kids.

There is an adult narrative thread running through The Florida Project, a narrative of disillusion and suppressed fear; but it comes encased in the children’s heedless, directionless world of fun.

Sean Baker creates a story that is utterly absorbing and moves with its own easy, ambient swing.  He has the gift of seeing things from a child’s view. There is a kind of genius in that.” ★★★★★ – Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian

A vibrant, bold and bright portrayal of American childhood which just has to be seen…among the best films ever made about childhood. ★★★★★ The Irish Times

Another ★★★★ review in The Guardian, this one by Mark Kermode.

An Outrageously Cute Interview with Brooklynn Prince, 7-Year-Old Star of Sean Baker’s The Florida Project (and Possibly the Youngest Oscar Nominee Ever).

95% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

Bria Vinaite: from Instagram entrepreneur to starring opposite Willem Dafoe.

USA, 2017 |Language: English | 115 minutes | Cert: 15A

Director, Writer, Editor:   Sean Baker

Cast:  Willem Dafoe, Brooklyn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto