There are some movies that make me grateful for the life I’ve been able to live thus far and “The Florida Project” is one of those, which takes a real-life look at impoverished families living in a place where one might never think poverty even exists, that being near Disney World.
Set over the course of one summer, the film surrounds the life of a 6-year-old girl named Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her friends Scooty (Christopher Rivera), Dicky (Aiden Malik), and Jancey (Valeria Cotto) who each live at low budget motels that are extremely near the Disney World properties. At $38 a night, these motels have become homes for many poor families including Moonee’s, whose sole guardian is her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite). At first glance, it’s quite easy for the movie watcher to become appalled at Moonee’s use of foul language, lying, scamming, and numerous delinquent acts, that is until we start getting to know Halley. She doesn’t have a job and instead sells cheap knock off perfumes to Disney World resort guests to pay her weekly “rent” at their motel. And when not doing that she regularly engages in the use of recreational drugs and alcohol, solicits herself for sex to make extra cash, and is consumed with plenty of vulgar language herself. Yet what is also apparent is the fact that Halley truly does love her daughter and tries to do everything she can to provide Moonee a decent life given their poor circumstances. Unfortunately, Halley acts as much her daughter’s age in behaviors and isn’t the role model Moonee really needs, which the motel’s property manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) is overly aware of. But because of the soft spot he has for Moonee and the other kids living out of the small motel rooms on his property, he provides more warnings than anything else when violations occur. But as the summer wears on and as those violations continue to grow in number between Halley and her daughter, it seems as if their days of living in this low budget motel are numbered, as well as Halley continuing to remain Moonee’s guardian.
Why I liked this movie as much as I did was simply because these low budget motels do exist as homes for poverty stricken families within walking distance of the Disney proprieties in Florida. For someone like me who has visited Disney a number of times throughout my life and knows how expensive it is to have a vacation there, I must say that the thought of those places existing so close by never once crossed my mind anytime I was there. Instead, I was always more consumed with myself and my lavish spending instead of thinking about those less fortunate who lived in poverty more than not nearby.
The sad reality is that there are more than 45 million people living this way in the United States and yet it repeatedly gets overlooked by too many of us. It’s easy to turn our heads away and deny it even exists, especially if we’ve never suffered from poverty ourselves. In turn, it also becomes easy to judge the actions and behaviors of the impoverished, like I found myself doing mentally when watching Halley and her daughter’s actions in this film. But for someone like me who has never once lived a day in their shoes, judging them is the last thing I should be doing.
Nevertheless, “The Florida Project” opened my eyes to something I’ve personally overlooked far too much in this life. It was a great reminder as well that I not only need to remain grateful for the abundance God’s given me in this life, but also and far more importantly, that no matter where I am, even at a magical place like Disney, there are people living in poverty nearby just like Halley and Moonee, who may never know what it means to ever have any type of abundance in life. And in the end, seeing that depicted in this film was a pretty humbling experience for me.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson