Ava's Indie Film Reviews
By Ava Francis-Hall
An individual is constructed and torn down by the tropes and formalities of their youth. Two newly-released films illustrate the magical mirage created through a young heart. Do not be deceived by these films playful nature, as behind the facade lurks deep and dangerous desires. These films ultimately deliver unforgiving honesty about a changing outlook on life and the timelessness of youth.
The Florida Project
The Florida Project is objective in its nature, but it is impossible to stay passionless once Moonee played by actress Brooklynn Prince arrives on screen. Her vivacity and lust for life brings the lush colors of youthful innocence to life. She plays with her friend Scooty and her new friend Jancey as they visit all the tourist traps on the outskirts of Disney World. They eat ice cream together, spit on cars, explore the native Florida swamplands and experience the trivialities a seven-year old life would.
On the other side of the mauve illusion lives dark and unforgiving desires of Moonee’s mother and the other residents of the the Magic Castle. Moonee’s mother picks up odd jobs as her need to support her child is persistent. Often, her jobs are dangerous and illegal and puts Moonee in a complicated situation. In one scene, Moonee plays in the tub with her off-brand Barbie as her mother sells herself to a man in the other room.
Willem Dafoe plays the hotel manager Bobby, who is a father in all sense of the word. He looks after Mooney and her mother, and makes sure they stay safe. In one heartstopping seen of loyalty, Bobby looks out for the children of the motel. An old man walks up to a group of playing children, and is about to ask them questions and who knows what else, when Bobby spots him and remedies the situation. He lures him away from the children by strolling with him to the hotel soda machine. As they walk back to the highway, Bobby grabs his wallet and ID and threatens to call the cops and forcefully tells him to never walk on the property again.
The Florida Project takes a bittersweet approach to the life of Moonee and her friends. One of the most interesting characters to me was Moonee’s mother. She is young, probably 23, and shows immense care for Moonee, although her actions may not reflect that. She beats up her best friend in the room directly on the floor beneath her, and she’s not a good role model to Monee in the slightest. It’s easy to sympathize for her, and even harder to feel comfortable when she is onscreen with her daughter.
This is a movie that depicts poverty and helplessness in a Disney World fairy-tale land. It made me feel so many conflicting emotions, from being repulsed to mystified at the same time. The characters are humanly raw and emotional; they do their best to help each other. The movie forces the viewer to recognize a mother's unrequited love, whilst also questioning the actions of that mother.
Ladybird is a heartfelt story involving a young woman on the verge of a new life as she graduates high school and her mother, who rides along.
This movie does not follow the traditional pattern of an average film. All of the characters are given equal treatment and although there are high school stereotypes: the popular girl, the player, the theatre kid- all work cohesively to set up a difficult but wonderful life for Ladybird. Saoirse Ronan plays her character wonderfully, and Laurie Metcalf is extraordinarily convincing as Ladybird’s mom. This movie is highly relatable as the audience weaves in and out through the notable and ordinarily plain moments in Ladybird’s life. The beauty of this film is shown in the shared looks between the mother daughter duo, and the tug it has on the viewer’s hearts.
Ladybird moves to Sacramento from the East coast. As she reminisces about her old life, she pleads to her mother, “I want to go to where culture is, like New York.” Soon enough, Ladybird is acquainted with the various characters of her Catholic private high school. She meets all walks of life that one would encounter in a high school. Her heart becomes glued to her best friend Julie, and she falls for her first love.
She dreams of leaving tiny Sacramento and going to college on the east coast. Her mother can’t bear the thought of her only daughter leaving her. The mother seems over aggressive at points, and I asked myself many times if the quips and insults she hurled at her daughter were really necessary.
However, the relationship shows how her mother takes out her love through anger, and doesn’t know how to express her sincere care for her child. The mother is a truly complex character, but a mother figure we can relate to nonetheless.
The duo go prom dress shopping, and they get in the middle of an argument. Ladybird finds a pretty pale pink dress and immediately shows it to her flustered mother, who releases her tensions and declares her joy.
The movie follows no basic storyline. It simply shows how Ladybird adapts and grows just like a bird would in her surroundings. In the final part of the movie, we see the struggle of Ladybird to leave her nest and move to the East coast for college.
What stood out for me the most about this movie was how accurately it portrayed the life of a high schooler. The characters were so well developed and had situations that would force faults and triumphs to come from their actions and words. There were many situations that almost every high schooler will go through, including the first love, the first car, prom, losing a best friend, and fighting with parents. This movie depicted all of these situations and more in their most raw, untouched form.