This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
kevinyang’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I so badly wanted to give this a 4.5 upon re-watch, but there's just something missing in that middle stretch that prevents a bumping of the rating. Still easily one of my favorites of 2017, and I'd like to touch upon a few additional things I really appreciated:
1. I really love the camerawork, especially as it relates to the interaction between the kids' world and the adults' world. There are several moments where Baker and Zabe choose to shoot the kids' heads from behind as a conflict plays out immediately in front of them, e.g. when Scooty watches Halley and Ashley fighting or when Moonee and Jancey walk towards the Child Protective Services people the first time. The heads are in focus while the adults are a bit fuzzy, and it's a great way to emphasize the perspective of the film, as well as the idea that the kids are both distant from and way too close to what's going on. It sort of parallels the idea that the motel is so close yet so far to Disney World. I also quite like the contrast between the aforementioned Moonee-Jancey shot and the later shot from behind of the two of them staring out at the lake, arms around each other.
2. It's a small moment, but the look on Brooklynn's face when Moonee gives the wristbands away and says "Have a good time"...god, what a quietly crushing flicker of sadness and disappointment. And speaking of the look on someone's face, how about Bria Vinaite when Moonee is eating the hotel breakfast? It's a perfect use of a closeup, and Vinaite absolutely nails that balance between pure adoration and an uneasiness/recognition that things aren't going to last.
3. The final sequence remains a perfect example of how to crosscut and edit. It's also perfect acting wise. If everything is right in the world, that sequence alone should propel Brooklynn Prince toward an Oscar and a long and fruitful career. The way she gets convinced by the CPS workers several times that everything's going to be okay, the way the slow realization hits her that something is very, very wrong, the way she breaks down and shows up at her friend's door...absolutely stunning, next-level acting. Also, an underrated aspect of the final sequence is definitely Dafoe's Bobby. Here's a guy who makes sure everything's sailing smoothly at the motel, who really truly cares about his residents even though he's willing to be hard on them. And then this group of people shows up. He's removed several people and even animals from the premises before, but this particular group of people can't really be removed. He's helpless in a way, and Dafoe plays it beautifully as he assures the woman that he's going to get the laundry machine fixed. This little gesture is all he can accomplish at the moment, and he desperately wants to help in any way that he can.
4. The final scene itself remains heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure, and there is absolutely nothing about it I would change. It's jarring stylistically, but thematically it's very consistent with the rest of the film. The film has zero blinders on about the situation Moonee's in; it recognizes that she's experiencing hardship and that her life will never be the same and that the world is sometimes just really cruel and unfair. To those who dislike the ending, I understand, but I also simply ask this: Why can't the film just have this one? Why can't Moonee? Why is something that is so clearly a fleeting moment somehow an upending of the themes of the film? We all know it won't last, and Moonee and Jancey start to realize that as well. But maybe in this shitty, hard-hitting world, we can find and appreciate moments of childhood innocence. Maybe we can hope and dream and give ourselves over to a sense of wonder, even for just a little bit.
The most human film of the year.