In The Florida Project Sean Baker explores the epidemic of America’s homeless crisis through the eyes of a six-year-old girl living with her young mother in the shadow of Orlando’s Walt Disney World.
Moonee (Brooklyn Prince) spends the long summer causing mischief with her friends while her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) tries to make ends meet by selling perfume to sympathetic tourists and stealing expensive Disney World passes from starry-eyed visitors.
The contrast of Moonee’s carefree life with that of her struggling mother is reflected in the juxtaposition of the run-down budget motels on the outskirts of the “happiest place on earth”.
The brightly coloured Magic Castle and Futureland motels mask the harsh realities facing the permanent residents who struggle with unemployment and the constant threat of eviction.
William Dafoe, a rare recognisable face in a cast of extraordinarily talented newcomers, provides heart and warmth as the kind motel owner, Bobby. Meanwhile, Moonee shines with childhood innocence and forms a believable bond with the foul-mouthed but loving mother Halley, who was cast by Baker after he noticed her on Instagram selling her clothing line.
Recalling memories of Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, The Florida Project is a funny, at times devastating and incredibly moving insight into the lives of America’s poorest citizens.