I ended up watching this movie completely blind with no prior knowledge, other than it’s based in the motels in Kissimmee, Florida and with just one known actor in the billing – Willem Dafoe who plays Bobby Hicks, the trusted managed of the Magic Castle Hotel where the story is based.

Director Sean Baker directs in a very raw style – simple cuts and logical tracking shots catch the motion of the children moving, playing, laughing and exploring their world.

Talking of the actors,  Bria Vinaite (Halley), Brooklynn Prince (Moonee, Halley’s daughter) and Valeria Cotto (Jancey, Moonee’s friend) form the triumvirate of lives we follow and they offer authentic performances.

I may not know what life is like living in a project, but I do know what life is like living on a council estate and this is distilled well through the eyes of Moonee’s life and her friends. The film is full of adventure and Brooklyn brings unbelievable charisma to the role, throughout the film reality starts to slowly creep into view. This harsh reality is revealed through a subtle, slow and steady build of housing issues, such as finding money to pay rent and hustling in whatever way you can to make money; living hand to mouth.

It’s the rose tinted, simple and ever-present living-in-the-moment of Moonee which keeps the narrative flowing and growing throughout. Halley’s struggles gradually become more apparent as Moonee’s mother and protector, bringing indignance, blunt honesty and commitment to raising her daughter no matter what. Bria does a brilliant job at portraying this.

Lastly, this is a great achievement for a really low budget movie with mostly unknown names. Among all the superhero movies, big screen remakes and sequels, this shows what can be done with a lot of hard work, focus and great actors committed to a story. I strongly recommend going to see it and supporting independent cinema.

The Florida Project is due for a limited release on 10th November, but for those in the Midlands area you can see it at the Electric Cinema in Birmingham on the 17th November and the Midlands Art Centre cinema on 1st December. 

*This review comes courtesy of Flatpack: Assemble run in partnership with the BFI Film Audience Network. Many thanks for Flatpack for the invite to this preview screening.

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