August 3, 2010

Moonlight (2002)

AH, YOUNG LOVE. I remember my early days of pubescence: Meeting new girls, the awkward conversations, smuggling drugs in my lower intestine…wait, what?

12-year-old Claire (Laurien Van den Broeck) discovers a wounded, bleeding boy (Hunter Bussemaker) in her family’s garden shed. The boy was serving as a mule for drug runners, but was shot and left for dead when he didn’t “deliver” all of their contraband. Claire, who is going through puberty and discovering the appeal of boys, keeps him a secret from her parents (Johan Leysen and Jemma Redgrave) and nurses him back to health. One day, while changing his soiled drawers (stay with me), she discovers little baggies in his stool – the remaining contraband the dealers wanted before they shot him. When the drug runners realize he’s still alive (and may still have the rest of their stash), what lengths will Claire go to protect him?


Filmed in the small European country of Luxembourg with an English-speaking cast, Moonlight is an atmospheric tale of young, awkward love between a strong girl and a shy boy, featuring beautiful cinematography by Guido van Gennep (his first feature) and a bare, haunting score by Fons Merkies. In many ways, Moonlight feels like a prototype for Let The Right One In (minus the vampire angle, though blood plays a significant role in both).

Van den Broeck carries the film exceptionally well, showing acting chops well beyond her years (she was just 13 when Moonlight was filmed) – using her commanding eyes to convey emotion and “speak” for silent, extended passages of the film.

A couple of nits: There’s a bleeding parallel between Claire and the boy (her menstruation, his wounds) that never fully comes together. And the third act tapers to an ending that’s a bit too artsy and nihilistic compared to what preceded it.

Moonlight won a handful of awards, either for Van den Broeck’s performance or the direction of Paula Van der Oest. It’s an overlooked little film if you’re searching for something interesting, intriguing, or off the beaten path.


Is it suitable for your kids?
Van der Oest must have an obsession with bodily fluids, because Moonlight has at least one graphic scene each of menstrual blood, bowel movements, urination, and vomiting. Also, the film may be a bit too “European” for some viewers’ tastes: There’s drinking, smoking, and drug-taking by Claire and the boy, and Van den Broeck is briefly topless in a sex scene with him. In terms of violence: The drug dealers beat and stab one of their own to death, Claire rips an earring off a man who gave her and the boy a ride, someone is killed with a pair of scissors to the throat, a dog is killed, and there’s an attempted rape.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
I honestly don’t know. It probably depends on her tastes. If you think she’d like an added dimension of vampires, you both might be rewarded more with the similarly-themed Let The Right One In.

There…there’s where we left the better ending.

* Director: Paula Van der Oest
* Screenwriter: Carel Donck
* Stars: Laurien Van den Broeck, Hunter Bussemaker, Andrew Howard, Johan Leysen, Jemma Redgrave
* MPAA Rating: N/A

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