A24 are perhaps my favourite studio out there, distributing great film after great film. At LFF alone, they screened a handful of them. I've reviewed Killing of a Sacred Deer already, and here are my thoughts on The Florida Project.

Taking place in an impoverished area of Florida, our eyes into this story are that of 6-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince); she's a live-wire, constantly ecstatic and full of such youthful energy and optimism. Living at The Magic Castle - a big purple budget hotel managed by the caring, charismatic Bobby (Willem Dafoe) - with her mum, Halley (Bria Vinaite), Moonee spends her days exploring whatever is nearby with her friends, Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Jancey (Valeria Cotto), and is always causing chaos and mischief in their wake. Similarly to his directorial debut Tangerine, Sean Baker - along with frequent co-writer Chris Bergoch - tell a story all about life and the human spirit and about people and it's just absolutely incredible. The Florida Project is such a tender film and, easily, one of the finest portrayals of childhood ever put to screen.

There is such beauty to the story Baker and Bergoch have to tell. This is a character study and one that is so raw and real and true. The pair have done a stellar job at capturing the heart of their characters and of the situation they're portraying; whilst minimal on a plot, the film focuses on the daily struggles of the poor and it's absolutely heartbreaking to watch. It's something perhaps a little difficult to relate to, but it's something so important and something that plays such a big part in our everyday lives without us really realising or taking notice and this film does a fine job of portraying the struggle and showing us just how tough the going can get for the poor. Yet, throughout all of this, it's the optimism and the heart of Moonee and her friends that prevails; even in the darker times the film shows, it's their innocence that shines through and it's so touching to watch. This is a film seen through the eyes of these children and the novelty of it could have worn thin or come across as annoying but it feels so authentic and beautiful. There is such a jovial innocuity and naivety to Moonee and her friends that makes us care for them so deeply.
Baker's direction is subliminal here, his orchestration of character depth and tone is immaculate. This film is hilarious, with the crazy antics of Moonee, Jancey and Scooty often proving quite funny; their outgoing personalities radiate with such charm and humour too and the film is surprisingly very witty as a result. However, more than this, The Florida Project boasts such a great big, pulsating heart and it oozes sincerity and charisma; it's a tender tale and one that packs quite the emotional punch when it needs. It's topped off with a pulpy score from Lorne Balfy and some truly gorgeous, fizzing cinematography by Alexis Zabe - this is a film that explodes with such rich colour and set designs and it's visually arresting. In the process of telling this story, though, Baker has given us a handful of some of the best child performances I've ever seen in a film; Brooklynn Prince, especially, is a superstar. She owns this film and is absolutely magnetic and able to so effortlessly carry this entire film and command your attention. She is matched by an astounding Bria Vinaite, plucked from the depths of social media, and her performance is so emotionally captivating yet always so subdued. Most of all, these girls are so real. And both give work comparable to any of the best, Academy-Award worthy work you'll see this year. Willem Dafoe too, gives such a moving and heartwarming performance here - just to round off the brilliant cast, all delivering such impressive work.

The Florida Project isn't flawless, however, and the film does feel quite rushed towards its final act. Throughout the run-time, it's planting the seeds for something to occur in the narrative, but, when it finally does, it feels very rushed and the film just kind of ends rather abruptly and it feels like some wasted potential. It's clear to see what Baker was going for but it doesn't necessarily land the way he perhaps wanted to and can feel rather jarring. It's a very purposefully paced film and things are constantly happening but, given the way the film ends, you can't help but feel more time could have been dedicated to fleshing out this certain narrative arc a little more. Regardless, this film is still amazing. It feels so special and different. We've seen films peer into the lives of children before, but never quite like this. Sean Baker, once again, has created a film that is so rousing, yet equally as heart-wrenching, and just so damn affecting; it will stir your deepest emotions. But it's an absolutely unwavering delight; so pure and heartfelt and, yes, magical.


The Florida Project is such a pure and heartfelt study of the innocence and beauty of childhood and life itself and it's an absolutely enamouring, unwavering delight.

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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