In a mere hour and fifty-five minutes, director Sean Baker has managed to successfully transport his audience into the world of six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her single mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) living in the “Magic Castle” motel on the outskirts of Walt Disney World, Florida. Over one summer, the audience is allowed to take a peek into this child’s memory in a way I have yet to see on film.
This is made possible not just by brilliant direction and stylistic choices, but the incredible acting as well. Child actors, Brooklynn Prince’s, Christopher Rivera’s and Valeria Cotto’s child-like energy, excitement and emotions race across the screen in such a way that you can’t help but to smile and laugh along with them. Not once in this film did it feel like these actors and actresses were acting. Discovered on Instagram, Bria Vinaite debuts in a dynamite manner; she is angry, caring and human in a way that would make any seasoned actor jealous. Willem Dafoe also shines as the motel’s stern but compassionate manager in a softer role not atypical of him but wonderfully delightful.
I believe this film will be remembered as one of the best films on childhood. Brightened colors and heightened sounds contributed to the strong feeling that we as an audience had tapped directly into this child’s memory. We understood her happiness, pain, and desire to maybe change the ending of her story. I would most definitely recommend this film to those who wish to spend two hours with a story that is deeply human.