Review: The Florida Project (15)

CHILDHOOD INNOCENCE: The Florida Project is in selected cinemas.
CHILDHOOD INNOCENCE: The Florida Project is in selected cinemas.
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In selected cinemas

The Florida Project dramatises how precarious childhood can be in tough circumstances.

The latest film from Sean Baker – who broke through with the shot-on-an-iPhone Tangerine back in 2015 – it’s set in a low-rent motel called the Magic Kingdom, a temporary stop-gap for the transient that stands in the shadow of the real Disney World.

That serves as an ironic counterpoint to the life of its pint-sized protagonist, Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), a six-year-old wildcat whose nightmare mother (Bria Vinaite) is simultaneously doing her best and her worst as she struggles to hold on to the bottom rung of the economic ladder in a country that still clings to the bogus notion that anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Though the motel’s manager (Willem Defoe, on empathetic form) keeps a watchful eye on Moonee and her feral friends, she basically has the run of the motel and she’s both hero and brat, seeking out fun at every opportunity, all the while oblivious to how dire her situation really is.

Like a US version of Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher, this is a film fully attuned to the way kids find beauty all around them and Baker does remarkable work with his young cast. The final sequence is also an all-time keeper.