Sean Baker’s The Florida Project is a deeply poignant look at childhood. Set in a motel on outskirts of Walt Disney World, the movie follows six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her rebellious mother Halley (Bria Vina) over summer.
The duo live at a budget motel named “The Magic Castle” which is managed by Bobby (Willem Dafoe). Despite Halley’s brash nature Bobby continues to let the mother and daughter live week-to-week at his motel.
In stark contrast to the magic of Walt Disney World, the run-down motels that surround it are more like projects, inhabited by home to low-income families struggling for money each and every day.
Moonie is unaware of her unorthodox surroundings. She spends her days causing mischief and going on adventures with her friends while her mother does whatever she can to make a living.
Halley is a dancer and chancer who makes money in any way possible, from selling wholesale perfume to rich resort customers or her body. Thankfully the stark reality of her mother’s situation is never really revealed to the youngster.
I won’t give the ending away but know this, when we see the ordinarily street-wise Moonie break into tears we are reminded just how young she really is. The Florida Project is an insight into the magic of childhood and for those brief moments we are privileged to live in it.
Willem Dafoe gives a performance of a lifetime, while Bria Vina provides a strong, memorable character. However, the standout star of the movie is undoubtedly Brooklynn Prince.
By Ruth Walker