Florida Project, The (2017)

The Florida Project follows a group of kids living in poverty just outside Disney World.  Led by Moonee, played by Brooklynn Prince, the small group of kids explore and wreak havoc on the motel they call home.  As the children play around the motel, they reveal the poverty that surrounds a fairy-tale world, through the eyes of a child.  It inspiring how children can still find the beauty and lust for life even when the deck is stacked against them.

With the exception of Willem Dafoe, as the dedicated superintendent of the motel, every other cast member was an unknown.  The absence of recognizable faces made the experience more immersive and genuine. Sean Baker’s unique style has a grit and genuine nature that makes his films gripping from start to finish.  At least this was true of The Florida Project and Tangerine.

Lady Bird (2017)

Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?

 

High school is one of those times in our lives that we never forget.  The awkward navigation of puberty, self-consciousness, and tumultuous interpersonal relationships are the baseline for what become our formative years.  Trying to figure out who we are and at the same time, keep up on school work and planning the trajectory of the next phase of our life.  This can be daunting, but Greta Gerwig was up to the task in her solo directorial debut, Lady Bird.

Lady Bird follows Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, played by Saoirse Ronan, as she finishes up her senior year in high school.  Her combative relationship with her mother, Laurie Metcalf, causes the primary source of tension throughout the film.  The McPherson family’s low-income status reduces Lady Bird’s post high school options and is a major source of stress for her mother.  With out-of-state college out of reach, Lady Bird is forced to deal with her ambivalent feelings towards Sacramento and the lackluster prospect of city college. 

This authentic portrayal of high school life, has an honest realism that few coming of age movies ever achieve.  It has the quirks and awkwardness reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite while still anchored in reality.

Moonlight (2016)

This film was captivating from the first scene to the last.  Barry Jenkins’ shooting style goes beyond merely engaging and fully submerges the viewer into the story.  Jenkins’ style is so personal to the point of being unnerving at times.  We find ourselves losing our footing with frenzied arc shots that track actors with multiple rotations.  The viewer is unavoidably engaged in empathy and compassion with a series of extreme closeup shots that are so close to the action you can’t help but feel right there in the moment.  These shots compliment the story and the performances exceptionally.

Witch, The (2015)

This directorial debut for Eggers was pretty intense.  I feel like this is what people were expecting when The Village, by M. Night Shyamalan, was released.  This film follows a puritan family exiled from their village to the edges of a forest.  The film shifts from a thriller to a horror relatively quickly and keeps us guessing as to what is going on until the absolute end.