The Light of the Moon (2018) (Review)

The Light Of The Moon is a quietly powerful and assured reflection on a topic cinema so frequently mishandles -- sexual assault. Jessica M. Thompson's directorial debut has arrived at a time where the tides of Hollywood appear to be changing for the better, with The Light of the Moon demonstrating life after such a horrifying attack, and how it must go on for both the victim and her relationships.

When Bonnie (Stephanie Beatriz) is attacked and sexually assaulted while walking to her New York City home after a night out, her world is irrevocably changed. Despite attempting to hide the nature of the attack from everyone, eventually the truth emerges and she confides in her boyfriend, Matt (Michael Stahl-David); she then worries how her relationship will be affected by such an event and tries to win back control and confidence in her life.

The Light of the Moon homes in on the very intimate and personal experience of a horrifying ordeal, horrendously still seen all over the world. It never attempts to prescribe Bonnie's reaction as the default response to such an attack and is very careful to avoid becoming exploitative, ensuring that it is displayed in both a sensitive and frank manner. Thompson's script basks in a simplicity, understanding the importance of the character and her relationship's intimacy for this exploration to operate most effectively. Emotional and earnest, Thompson's work is a well-balanced and refreshing take on something that could easily have left like a misjudged misfire.

Thompson's direction is quietly assured here too, with imagery delicately interwoven throughout so it never distracts from the thematic weight.  From the couple lying in bed together in one, extended take - as captured wonderfully in the promotional art - to the tight framing of Bonnie's face alone during the attack, Thompson makes some smart and clinical decisions that elevate The Light of the Moon beyond standard indie fare. It's grounded, emotional and powerful where needed, illustrating her fine ability to approach the material in a very composed and imperturbable manner; any director could get caught up in subject manner as delicate as that displayed here and Thompson should be particularly commended for avoiding these pitfalls so early on into her career. In her first film, Thompson has proven herself as a very resourceful, competent director and with the skill and talent to go far (hopefully in the near future).

Because The Light of the Moon is perhaps more limited in scope and constrained by a measly budget, a talent is required in front of the camera to engage audiences at every moment; in Stephanie Beatriz, a fully-fledged film star has been found. Known best for her television work in Brooklyn Nine-NineBeatriz makes the screen transition well, providing a truly outstanding and commanding performance that should propel her forward in Hollywood. Well-judged and carefully-crafted, Bonnie's journey is so excellently-developed and well-performed and you feel every ounce of her pain and torment with the situation, truly indicative of Beatriz's tremendous, nuanced and captivating performance. From her body language to her characterisation, Beatriz is impressive in every aspect, delivering a memorable, career-boosting performance.

Her co-star, Michael Stahl-David, is impressive, although his material is understandably lesser. His role as the 'positive male influence' in her life uncovers some interesting observations on the life of sexual assault survivor's friends and family; it's an interesting and refreshing angle for the film to consider and it does it rather well indeed, shouldered by Stahl-David's solid performance. The film is cautious to ensure that Bonnie's journey is central and of paramount importance at all times, but the incorporation of this character and the symbolism he brings is deft and perceptible too, once again illustrating Thompson's success as a director and writer.

Go out of your way to see this wonderful little movie -- it boasts the talent of the promising, up and coming writer-director, Jessica Thomspon, who I will be eager to see progress throughout what deserves to be a fruitful career. Stephanie Beatriz's outstanding central performance should allow her to excel too; she would certainly be in contention for a number of awards if the visibility of this film was greater. The Light of the Moon is a well-crafted reflection of the life and recovery of a survivor, one that considers those around her in the same breath, while never losing focus on the personal and the intimate.


Summary: The Light of The Moon is a quietly powerful and assured reflection on life after sexual assault with an added timeliness, helmed by a promising writer-director and featuring an outstanding, career-boosting turn from Stephanie Beatriz.