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My new favorite movie

by Lauren Gumm (she/they) 11 months ago in movie review

review of Moonlight Kingdom (2012)

here's a trailer, so you can decide whether or not you want to watch it. better yet, stop what you're doing, go watch it right now, then come back and read this after.

I'll put the spoilers after a big warning, in case you haven't seen the movie. Okay, diving right in.

Suzy's family has traditional likes and dislikes, it looks like a quiet house with well-behaved children. She has a cute pair of binoculars that she often wears. The mom and dad seem to be in their own world, leaving Suzy in charge of all her siblings. Maybe not formally in charge of them, but they look to her on matters of well-being. They are lost in ping pong, records, or books much of the time. The mother seems to be in a shell of shame. The dad, played by Bill Murray, is doing his own thing most of the time. The mom literally pulls out a megaphone to get his attention, cute but telling. It seems like Suzy is emotionally abandoned, as well as her mother's primary emotional support.

Sam is a part of the Khaki Scouts, which I think can be representative of any organization (church-affiliated or not) that can be an escape for children that come from troubled backgrounds. In organizations such as these, it's all about following the rules, there's no compassion or room for mistakes. Sam and Suzy have escapism in common. Suzy is shown escaping her overbearing parents in fantasy books, Sam through survival skills. The Khaki Scouts teaches rules and norms, and gives him a place to belong, though his peers are not friendly. He is seen as weird and crazy. He is especially adept at setting boundaries.

SPOILERS AFTER THIS

We learn that Sam is a foster child. His troupe leader didn't know, so he obviously wasn't receiving adequate attention.

His foster parents don't "invite him back" to their home, but the two kids still need to be found. The boy scout troupe decides to go hunt for them, though it is more about practicing their scout skills than helping a friend. Just playing rescue, the other boys are lost in their own adventures. Especially after they all witnessed a natural disaster AND their troupe leader rescue the commander from the burning tent.

The showdown in the church. I don't remember any of the details, but I remember that Sam and Suzy were watching everyone argue about them. The foster parents didn't want Sam, social services wanted to do shock therapy which the Island Police wouldn't allow. Sam and Suzy were about to jump off the ledge of the church when the cop came out with a lasting solution: Sam could come with him. Once Sam had the possibility of emotional stability, he and Suzy were able to make the choice to not jump off the church.

They will always have their Moonrise Kingdom, and we even see Sam playing at Suzy's house at the end of the movie. The story of their relationship is one that we should all understand; our traumas can be so vastly different but still have the very same impact on us. Those two kids knew each other, they had the same heart, they understood each other, they loved each other. So many of us have shared experiences, but have no idea how to connect with one another. I think the film fantastically depicts the common cycles of abuse; neglect and codependency, or a mixture of both. I see these patterns everywhere, and I'll admit I'm often projecting (although this is my healing journey, so you can't stop me); these cycles are more common than any of us would care to admit. In systems like foster care, kids are tossed around. Sam was not invited back because "it wouldn't be fair to the others." Maybe it wasn't fair of the parents to assume they could handle more than one emotionally distressed child at a time. In the Khaki Scouts, there is a clear hierarchy and everyone knows their place. Not everyone is given a voice, and there is not much room for expression. We are in the midst of a mental health epidemic, and these types of abuse can explain a lot of the most prominent mental health diagnoses. At the end of the movie, after both children had their physical and emotional needs met, there was a better crop yield; showing healing in the community as a whole.

movie review

Lauren Gumm (she/they)

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