As of late, there has been a steady increase in the depiction of working-class life in British cinema – from Andrea Arnold’s stark, stunning Fish Tank to Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or winning critique of austerity in I, Daniel Blake. Both of these films have been excellent, and both have felt incredibly brave in their willingness to honestly portray life for Britain’s working-classes under a Conservative government – one which has repeatedly mistreated the most financially vulnerable in the wake of the recession that came in 2008. As fantastic as I, Daniel Blake and Fish Tank are, however, they primarily focus on examining the lives of white characters; few films have set out to explore the experiences of those that are both working-class and black. This particular demographic has largely been ignored in British cinema, despite the rise in the number of stories of the working-classes that have been told lately, so it gives me pleasure to be able to say that Obey, the feature-length debut of director Jamie Jones, is not afraid to tackle such a subject. Obey is an emotionally raw, accomplished piece that consistently succeeds in attempting to give an honest depiction of the reality that this specific community is faced with.
‘The Florida Project’ is a film filled with sprawling images of pastel buildings, and drenched in a warmth so intense that it almost feels sickly. Such setting is used to depict an American summer that leads to the devastation of lives and the denial of a fair childhood, rather than one that allows children to enjoy their youth; to live out their early days in the safety of a permanent home, and in the happiness of the sun. Set at an outstandingly purple motel on the fringes of Disney World, ‘The Florida Project’ tells the story of Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), a six-year-old girl spending a long, languorous summer break wreaking havoc with her friends. In her makeshift castle, Moonee makes herself queen and roams around the land as if it is hers alone, seemingly unbothered by the lack of luxury that she grows up amongst. While other children spend Floridian summers in the company of Mickey Mouse and his fellow cartoon pals, Moonee spends hers helping her mother to sell perfumes to unwitting tourists. What is on display in ‘The Florida Project’ is the same kind of haunting, social realism that is found in Andrea Arnold’s ‘American Honey’. Neither film makes any kind of attempt to hide the striking poverty that ravages modern America, nor does either attempt to romanticise it. Moonee may be able to run around freely in the swampy surroundings of Disney’s outskirts, but she also has to run to the diner at which a friend’s mother works, in order to secure a dinner for the evening. An ice cream, for example, is only guaranteed if she tells strangers that she needs it for her asthma. Meanwhile, on the other side of a fence, thousands upon thousands of kids are given the greatest time of their young lives. Continue reading “The Florida Project: On wealth inequality, childhood and the myth of the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’”