This is one of those movies that seems interminable at times when you’re watching it but afterwards it seems more rewarding.
It’s a tale of the contrasting worlds within a world of children and adults in low income motel accommodation in Florida.
For the children it seems to be a summer of day after day adventure and play. Sure, there are some incidents of difficult behaviour like swearing, rudeness, and arson. But these are isolated things in the daily lives of children who seem to have few cares, almost endless sunshine, and enjoyable outdoor play. Nearly everything is an adventure. And the events and scenes are compellingly authentic.
For the adults it’s a different story. Low income jobs, precarious employment, and the expectations of adult life lead to some difficult, dangerous, and ultimately high-penalty choices for some.
I didn’t read much about the film’s background and set up. From appearances it seems very Ken Loach like. In that there are some known actors and a bunch of seemingly regular people. Either it was unscripted or the actors are excellent at translating lines into realistic-seeming mundane day to day dialogue.
Willem Defoe is remarkable as the motel manager. Both in his portrayal and in his character. Calm nearly all the time. Helpful and supportive even at personal cost. And protective and caring. The scene with the potential paedophile is unnervingly realistic and totally gripping.
Why 5? In part it is that while the film is glorious in its colours and cinematography and it has some real drama it just unfolds at such a normal life pace that it’s not that entertaining. And from the start you’re aware that this is like a train on a collision course. It’s going to end badly for someone.
If you’re used to slow moving arty movies and can enjoy the escapism the children’s adventures offer while handling the adults’ events then definitely see this. If you like arty films that elide mundanity then take your stamina tablets before walking in.