Shame is a perpetual feeling often associated with poverty. In a world where independent capitalist endeavours are so highly praised and defining of one’s worth, those lacking in such ventures are often left feeling worthless. Those who ask for financial help are called ‘freeloaders’ or ‘lazy.’ Even though it’s a system built to keep those at the bottom remaining at the bottom, it leaves those in need feeling humiliated and ashamed when they cannot securely provide for themselves. This feeling of remorse is worsened even more when you consider the responsibility of taking care of a child. Not only is your already-stretched budget now splitting at the seams to cover your beloved offspring, but you’re responsible for explaining to a child as to why exactly they’ve inherited such a bad lot in life. There’s a crushing and frustrating guilt that comes with knowing your child is not being provided with the best possible start in life—regardless of how hard you try.
Both Sean Baker’s The Florida Project (2017) and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters (2018) offer up insight into the struggle of trying to raise a child in poverty. How wanting to promise your child the world conflicts with the unlikelihood of being able to follow through on such promises. Having to face the reality of doing things for money that one would never want their child to do, just to keep your head above water. All while trying to disguise your child from the harsh realities of life. It’s a dizzying and exasperating tight-walk of morality and being realistic about the world—one that sometimes requires delusional wishful thinking just to keep you and your child sane.
As a dweller of this hellhole state, I can assure you that The Florida Project is the only saving grace to come out of Florida since Publix’s BOGO deals. This film truly sets you up for a party-of-one crying fest and leaves you feeling so frustrated, heartbroken, and helpless. At least for me, those were the three most profound emotions I felt during the movie, which is one of the reasons why this film stood out to me. As filmmakers and storytellers like to say, there’s always a truth in every story; however, in a much deeper sense, The Florida Project is more real than you could say about most films because of the subject the film tackles. Many of us can’t say we know what it’s like to really empathize with Moonee’s childhood and yet, somehow it feels as if we’ve lived through it; the struggles of poverty, an unstable home life, young motherhood – themes that are strongly prevalent in today’s society.
Moonee (Brooklyn Prince), a precocious six-year-old, is a court jester disguised as the princess of the Magic Castle Motel. During her summer break, she and her little groupie go out of their way to cause mayhem for the residents and even manage to light an entire house on fire. However, while Moonee and her friends are off on their crazy adventures, the adults are left to pick up the pieces. At first glance, Moonee seems to only be a force of destruction but we soon realize that she’s learned to mirror this behavior from her young troubled mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite). Bobby (Willem Dafoe) the overseer and protector of his royal pink castle acts as a faux guardian to Moonee. He tries to keep everyone in check, but more importantly plays the main father figure role not only to Moonee but to Halley as well. While Moonee seems to be oblivious of the hardships around her, we see the adults dealing with unstable finances, implied drug use, and prostitution.
It’s been a great year for movies. From the blockbusters that broke box office records (‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Wonder Woman’, ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’) to the new-found classics with a real social impact (‘Get Out’, ‘Call Me by Your Name’), many films released this year will doubtlessly be well-remembered for decades to come. There’s been controversial releases from much-loved directors (‘mother!’, ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’), some fantastic sequels, remakes and franchise continuations (‘Logan’, ‘Blade Runner 2049’, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’) and even a new Rotten Tomatoes record for critical acclaim (‘Lady Bird’). Of course, as per usual, some movies haven’t quite hit the mark, but best not to mention those. Instead, we’ll talk about the movies that we truly loved in 2017, the very best of the best, in a year that’s been very important for film. Without further ado, our top 15 of the year:
15. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Martin McDonagh’s latest is a dark comedy about the ongoing anger in our world and what happens as it explodes into something far worse. But for as much as past mistakes may have driven one’s own soul to where they are headed to in the present, Martin McDonagh’s newest black comedy isn’t so much what would have been expected. What I first entered thinking it would be another vulgar comedy in the veins of In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths wasn’t only that, but to my own surprise it was also a rather stunning portrait of grief – in order to balance the satire present with the way the American morale is perceived by many. In this world that Martin McDonagh has created, there are no heroes, there’s only anger and it explodes into more anger, we laugh along but quickly enough it bites back since we know that in this world we know that there is no greater authority that wants to control the anger. It only feels more fitting in this day and age when you come to consider that America’s driving force is anger. In the most unexpected ways, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is actually rather hopeful amidst the darker surface and it’s also Martin McDonagh’s most optimistic film – driven by a powerhouse performance by Frances McDormand. Right next to her own role in the Coen brothers’ Fargo, it seems like the most fitting counterpart because of their antonymous morals, but it’s that anger it drives from one’s own mind that leaves ourselves to reflect upon what we have in store for the future.