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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Film review: 'The Light of the Moon' is a refreshingly honest approach to the reality of surviving sexual assault

The film is streaming on Amazon at the height of the #TimesUp campaign against sexual harassment and abuse

A scene from 'The Light of the Moon'. Courtesy Imagination Worldwide
A scene from 'The Light of the Moon'. Courtesy Imagination Worldwide

There isn’t much in the way of budget in Jessica M Thompson’s The Light of the Moon, but what it lacks in extravagance, visuals and big names, it makes up for with plenty of heart and an impressive lead performance from Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz, who plays sexual-assault victim Bonnie.

The film could not be more on-trend. Not only does it release on Amazon’s streaming service at the height of the #TimesUp campaign against sexual harassment and abuse, but as a young, successful, female, Latina architect, the heroine catalyses debate on racial subject matter, too.

This is no mere exercise in ticking the right “issue” boxes, however. Thompson has crafted an impressively realistic and unique study of the effects of rape, not only on Bonnie, but also on her family and friends. But, hold onto your expectations. Yes, Bonnie is traumatised and has rebuilding to do, but her main goal is just to get on with life. Beatriz plays the part with a down-the-line frankness and black humour that is at times disarming, rather than the kind of histrionics that are often adopted by a young actor given a meaty role in a quality drama.

It is those around Bonnie who sometimes seem more affected by the ordeal. Her workaholic boyfriend Matt (Michael Stahl-David’s) suddenly becomes Mr “Home at Six with Dinner on the Table”; her friends feel the urge to walk her everywhere she goes; and her mother becomes even more overbearing than she was before.

Bonnie’s desire to return to work, continue intimate relations with Matt and go home after a night out without an entourage could come across as trivialising her experience, but Thompson
and Beatriz stay just the right side of that fine line – it isn’t that Bonnie isn’t affected by
her experience, she clearly is, but she is almost denied the right to deal with it as she sees best as a result of her own friends’ interpretation of how it should affect
her, and as an extension, them.

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The film isn’t perfect. Some scenes, such as when Bonnie berates another young woman in her neighbourhood for walking home alone at night with her headphones on, come across a little clunkily, and although the lead pairing offer convincing performances, some of the supporting cast are less solid.

The movie is, however, a refreshingly honest approach to a subject all too often used as a plot device to inspire either an Oscar-winning tears-and-trauma performance or a trail of blood and violence. For this reason alone, it should be applauded.

The Light of the Moon

Director: Jessica M Thompson

Starring: Stephanie Beatriz, Michael Stahl-David

Three stars