New York Film Festival Review: “The Florida Project” (2017) ★★★★★

The society we are living in is broken and nobody tries to fix it. When I am saying nobody, I am not saying you or me. I am talking about those who are in charge and empowered to do anything possible to repair the gaps, eliminate them and provide the necessities in order to make it much healthier. What is captured in Sean Baker’s “The Project Florida” is hard to deliver in any review you read. It’s something you will have to see to witness. It’s unthinkable, terrifyingly true, and extremely raw. It exposes the core of sickness the society has, and allows it to go down deep to the core of the issue where at the end of the day children are the ones who suffer the most.

Set over one summer, the film follows a self-aware and wise 6 year old Moonee as she embarks herself into an adventure with her friends Jancey and Scooty. More importantly, not having much money, the children go outside asking random people to give some cash to buy ice cream. In the meantime, Mooney gets closer with wild mother Hailey, whom she does not judge but simply loves. It’s the story of their struggle, how they live in one little apartment and what happens next if the madness that erupts turns into a hurricane that will sweep everything it finds on its way.

Mooney uses adult language, same as her friends and even her mother. They drive crazy the neighborhood and the manager of the motel, Bobby (William Dafoe) whose patience towards their uncontrollable insanity has no limit. The film cleverly expedites the day-to-day struggles of poor people in the United States and focuses on the motel where its permanent residents barely make their ends meey. We know that Hailey, Mooney’s mother brings different men to her home, but we never see them though. But that’s an impression left in the film. But Hailey despite her issues loves Mooney and spends enough time with her, even though you hardly can call it as quality time.

Hailey’s friend Ashley, whose son befriended Mooney are all over the place. As they live in the shadows of Disney World, they don’t have enough money to afford visiting it. The dream remains as a dream for them. However, things changes to worse when police comes to knock Hailey’s door, where they realize the condition in which she lives with her little daughter and its a shocking and unforgettable culmination many of you will talk about long after the film ends.

If you have seen Lars von Trier’s “Dogville”, then you must know what to be prepared for. As the storyline is set in America, it evolves around poor people who earn their dollar via cheating, in the case of Hailey or even the children. It’s about the possibilities that the country gives to children within their reach, but they are unable to take advantage of it due to the financial situation. It’s about lack of education and unwillingness to provide to those who are in need. Perhaps, and you might disagree with me, Hailey had her reasons to be who she was. However, her love for her daughter is the most important element in the film, the same as Mooney’s that will eventually decide the fate of the two forever.

It will be unfair to say that William Dafoe is the only one who must get an applause for his remarkable performance. Bria Vinaite as Halley, or Brooklynn Prince as Mooney are simply speechless. What they do to themselves in order to create an artwork is truly outstanding and unique. Through their performances they allow their characters to escape the prison known to them as poverty. But that poverty was not just financially only, but somewhere deep in their mind as well. But alas, I wish I could have had such a power to observe every viewer’s reaction throughout the movie or during the closing scene, which I must say was one of the most beautiful sequence of scenes I’ve seen in a while.

But getting back to the concept of the story – it’s educational, an eye opener and brutal in so many ways. But it’s true, so true that you will probably dislike that fact the most about this film. But at the end of the day, what do we know about our neighbors? Or how much do we know about the struggles of those who can’t afford buying a loaf of bread? Yes, The Project Florida uncovers the problems of society much bigger than inability to buy bread… and that is something I hope every social worker after watching it will stop playing God and perhaps will start acting in the opposite way, which is the right one….

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