In explaining some of the reasoning for making THE LIGHT OF THE MOON, a film about a rape victim, Jessica Thompson, an Australian filmmaker and founder of Stedfast Productions, cited other pieces of media that have treated rape and sexual assault as a plot point, specifically name-checking HBO’s Game of Thrones. If Thompson intended to tell an honest story about a woman who has been raped and how life changes after, in sharp contrast with other depictions of sexual assault in film and television, she has absolutely succeeded.
The story is about Bonnie (Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Stephanie Beatriz), a New York City woman who is raped while walking home alone after a night out with her friends. What follows is a raw, honest portrayal of a sexual assault victim and the many stages of emotion that come with grief and trauma. The film touches on the subjects of victim blaming, without ever endorsing or validating it; guilt and coping; and the brutality that comes with being emotionally vulnerable not only with other people but with yourself too.
Beatriz is the anchor of the film. There is not a scene she’s not in and while a daunting task, she pulls it off with a sincere humanity and gravitas. It’s certainly a departure from Rosa Diaz in B99 and shows Beatriz’s versatility and depth as a performer.
In society, there can be expectations placed on people for how they should act after suffering some sort of trauma and coping with the grief that follows. Importantly, this film dismantles that notion. Bonnie lashes out at people and gets defensive, she acts as though she’s more okay than she is and struggles with talking to people or seeking out support, all while hurting the people she loves in the process. It’s certainly not an excuse — nothing is when people get hurt — but it’s a powerful depiction of the notion that there is no “correct” way to cope with trauma and grief, and we should stop pretending like there is one.
Another aspect of the film that connects is how it’s shot. It’s no mistake that the film is about women and by women. Having not only a female director and writer, but a female cinematographer as well, is crucial and it shows. There is no male gaze present in this film, it is entirely focused on Bonnie and her pain. When the rape happens, the camera remains close on Bonnie’s face, focusing on the victim, not the perpetrator or act itself. As the film progresses, this continues. Bonnie continues to be shot in objective and compassionate angles, rather than in any way that sexualizes her.
The Light of the Moon is a whirlwind of emotions, but one that never treats its subject with anything but sincere honesty and compassion. It’s an important watch, not only for women, but also especially for women, and continues to make the case for more female creators in this space.
Rated: Not yet rated
Running time: 94 minutes
Anya is a writer and editor with a passion for pursuing diverse narratives and perspectives. Her feminist icons are Lauren Bacall and Leslie Knope and she can often be found at a Disney park when she’s not working on her Masters in Mass Communication/Journalism at Cal State University Northridge.
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Anya Crittenton | Associate Editor