×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The Light of the Moon’

With:
Stephanie Beatriz, Michael Stahl-David, Conrad Ricamora, Catherine Curtin, Olga Merediz, Cindy Cheung, Susan Heyward, Craig Walker, Cara Loften, Michael Cuomo

All too often in film and TV, rape is used as a plot device – a way for cable dramas to display their grittiness, a pretext for a campaign of vengeance, a hazily recollected backstory – but rarely is the actual trauma and its long, uneasy aftermath given the detailed and unflinching treatment it deserves. Writer-director Jessica M. Thompson’s “The Light of the Moon” aims to do just that, and her simply-structured film is harrowingly effective in its streamlined, low-frills way: sensitive without ever being sanctimonious, brutally frank without ever lapsing into exploitation.

A survivor’s narrative about a woman who might bristle at that description, the film introduces us to Bonnie (Stephanie Beatriz) a sardonic young architect living with her workaholic boyfriend Matt (Michael Stahl-David) in Brooklyn. After he stands her up for a night out with a client, she has a few too many at a local bar with some coworkers, and while walking home with her headphones on, she’s dragged into an alley by a stranger and raped. (Though brief and sensitively shot, with the camera in tight close up on Bonnie’s face, the assault scene is appropriately upsetting.)

In starkly matter-of-fact fashion, Thompson shows us every step of the aftermath: dealing with brusque cops, unsympathetically clinical treatment from nurses, and the sinking “what now?” feeling after finally arriving back home. But the real drama starts in the days immediately afterward, as Bonnie tries to resume her previous young Brooklynite life as quickly as possible, while random circumstances and her entirely well-meaning boyfriend keep reopening the wound in so many tiny ways.

After telling everyone at work that she’s been mugged, Bonnie’s colleagues offer sympathy along with the occasional joke, and Thompson’s script is attuned to just how deep an unintentionally flippant remark can cut. But the heart of the film is her relationship with Matt, who has gone from a slightly under-attentive partner to a smothering, overprotective amateur grief counselor.  He’s clearly doing the best he can to support her, and the film is bracingly honest about the limits of the help he can provide. (In one of the film’s most insightful scenes, Bonnie tries to make a dark joke about her assault, and Matt is the one triggered by it.)

“The Light of the Moon” is Thompson’s first feature, and it reveals some roughness around the edges as it goes, particularly with some uneven supporting performances and incidental dialogue. But Beatriz’s lead turn is expertly balanced and judged, as her attempts to keep the world at arm’s length only invite greater audience empathy. Of course she’s traumatized by what’s happened to her, but she’s also viscerally pissed off that this experience has to become part of her everyday life, and that added layer is particularly believable.

“I don’t want to be part of this sisterhood of rape victims,” Bonnie explodes after an encounter with a sobbing fellow survivor at a police lineup, and Beatriz is never shy about letting her character reveal some nasty shades as she gradually realizes that her usual lines of emotional defense (booze, overwork, sarcasm) aren’t working anymore. The paradox of recovery – wherein ignoring the trauma can be toxic, but over-acknowledging it can allow it to completely dominate your life – is one that she can’t quite untangle. To both Thompson and Beatriz’s credit, they never seem interested in providing easy answers.

Film Review: 'The Light of the Moon'

Reviewed online, March 9, 2017. (In SXSW Film Festival, Narrative Feature Competition.) Running time: 94 MINS.

Production: A Steadfast Films production in association with Big Vision Creative. Produced by Michael Cuomo, Jessica M. Thompson, Carlo Velayo. Executive producers, Stephanie Beatriz, Carl Cook, Gail Hili, Raymond K. Javdan, Sreekanth Middela.

Crew: Directed, written by Jessica M. Thompson. Camera (color), Autumn Eakin. Editor, Thompson.

With: Stephanie Beatriz, Michael Stahl-David, Conrad Ricamora, Catherine Curtin, Olga Merediz, Cindy Cheung, Susan Heyward, Craig Walker, Cara Loften, Michael Cuomo

More Film

  • C'est La Vie TIFF

    French Films' Overseas Box Office Revenue Drops 51% in 2018

    After bouncing back in 2017, the overseas box office revenue of French movies plummeted by 51% to 237 million euros ($270 million) with 40 million admissions sold, a 52% year-on drop, in 2018. The provisional box office figures were unveiled by UniFrance during a reception hosted at France’s culture minister during which Eric Toledano and [...]

  • Isabela Moner Shameik Moore Kiernan Shipka

    Netflix Casts Starry Ensemble for Adaptation of John Green's 'Let It Snow'

    “Dora the Explorer’s” Isabela Moner, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’s” Shameik Moore, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s” Kiernan Shipka, “Lady Bird’s” Odeya Rush, Jacob Batalon, Miles Robbins, Mitchell Hope, Liv Hewson, Anna Akana, and Joan Cusack are set to star in the Netflix pic “Let It Snow.” The film is based on the New York Times bestselling [...]

  • Brian Tyree Henry Playback Podcast If

    Listen: From 'Beale Street' to 'Spider-Verse,' Brian Tyree Henry Was Your 2018 MVP

    Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety / iHeartRadio podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films. Emmy- and Tony-nominated actor Brian Tyree Henry is coming off a sensational year. A second, acclaimed season of FX’s “Atlanta” sent him headlong into a fall movie season that saw featured roles in Yann [...]

  • (L to R) SAMUEL L. JACKSON,

    How a Costume Designer Brightened M. Night Shyamalan's 'Glass'

    Paco Delgado’s costumes are as varied as his films. Contrast the drama “The Danish Girl,” the futuristic fantasy “A Wrinkle in Time” and the period musical “Les Misérables.” Now he’s in comic-book territory with M. Night Shyamalan’s newest superhero/supervillain thriller, “Glass,” which Universal releases Jan. 17. The costume designer’s career began in Barcelona and London, [...]

  • The Lego Movie 2

    'Lego Movie 2' Heading for $55 Million Opening Weekend

    Warner Bros.’ “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” is heading for an opening weekend of as much as $55 million at the North American box office on Feb. 8-10, early tracking showed Thursday. Chris Pratt is returning to voice Master Builder Emmet Brickowski along with new character Rex Dangervest. The unfailingly optimistic Emmet has [...]

  • Kevin Hart Monopoly

    Kevin Hart in Talks to Star in Monopoly Movie

    Kevin Hart is in talks to star in Lionsgate and Hasbro’s Monopoly live-action movie, which he will also produce through his HartBeat Productions label. Tim Story is in final negotiations to direct the film and also produce through his Story Company banner. HartBeat’s John Cheng will also produce and oversee the pic with Carli Haney. Story Company [...]

  • Playtime Unveils Three New French Comedies

    Playtime Dives Into Different Waves of French Comedy (EXCLUSIVE)

    Playtime, the Paris-based co-production and sales company which will be presenting Francois Ozon’s anticipated “By the Grace of God” in competition at the Berlin Film Festival, has acquired three offbeat French comedies: Geraldine Nakache’s “I’ll Go Where You Go,” “The Bare Necessity” with Fanny Ardant, and Valerie Donzelli’s “Our Lady of Paris.” “Our Lady of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content