Film Review: The Florida Project

Sean Baker’s The Florida Project is a bittersweet drama. Although the finale is signposted fairly early on, the film excels in shining a light on a particular kind of childhood.

Young Moonee spends her summer getting into mischief with her friends, growing up close to Disney World in Florida. Her mother Halley, meanwhile struggles to pay the rent on their room at a motel complex…

Directed and co-written by Sean Baker, The Florida Project revolves around the lives of a young girl and her mother, who live in a motel room in Orlando. The film combines various themes in its telling of their tale. Baker establishes the protagonists early on, with the first sequence giving a great introduction to both mother and daughter.

Set in a motel complex in Florida, the film’s characters are almost universally poor. The Florida Project relays the struggles of living in such an area, yet makes sure to contrast Halley’s lifestyle with that of her neighbours. Like last year’s American Honey, The Florida Project excels at showing the underside to the American Dream. Moonee is very much a victim of circumstance. The film balances this with the examination of an entertaining childhood, despite the numerous detractions. This is most evident through the focus on the freedom of childhood through Moonee and her friends. Although frequently mischievous, the friends have a nice repartee as they go on their adventures.

Halley functions as much as an antagonist as she does a protagonist. Bobby is employed as an overseer, and even a protector to the mother and daughter, despite their attitudes. This character is developed enough to feel realistic. Moonee meanwhile is a character who elicits humour and warmth, as well as frustration. Although the finale of the film feels inevitable, the very ending is a bittersweet touch.

Brooklynn Prince is great as Moonie, whilst Willem Defoe is very natural as Bobby. Bria Vinaite is also convincing as Halley. The cinematography makes the most of the colourful setting, as well as the range of weather.

The Florida Project is a great exploration of childhood in challenging circumstances. The film is frequently humorous, without detracting from the poignancy.

The Florida Project is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.