The Light of the Moon

Sometimes you can only hold each other in the dead of the night.

(2017) Drama (Imagination Worldwide) Stephanie Beatriz, Michael Stahl-David, Conrad Ricamora, Catherine Curtin, Cindy Cheung, Susan Heyward, Jessica M. Thompson, Olga Merediz, Craig Walker, Heather Simms, Cara Loften, Christine Spang, Patricia Noonan, Christian Barber, Mike Ivers, Michael Cuomo, Nelly Savinon, Sarah Dacey-Charles, Jennifer Bareilles, Ashley Van Egeren. Directed by Jessica M. Thompson


In the wake of revelations about celebrity sexual predators (i.e. Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey) along with a commander-in-chief who thinks it’s perfectly okay to grab the genitals of a woman uninvited, there is no doubt that we have a culture predisposed to rape. To be a woman in 2017 means that she has to be absolutely aware of her surroundings at all times; she doesn’t have the freedom to walk alone at night, to accept drinks from strangers that she hasn’t  watched the bartender pour, to be subjected to the icy predatory stares of men checking her out, the condescending remarks and to be judged more on how she looks than who she is. Being a woman in 2017 to be frank is scary, and to raise a daughter in this time is heartbreaking, knowing what she is likely to experience before she is even old enough to vote.

Bonnie (Beatriz) is an architect working for a firm that is a rising star in the field. She’s been given a major project to lead and she’s putting in a lot of hours, wanting to make a big splash. She lives in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn only a few blocks from where she works. Her boyfriend Matt (Stahl-David) also has a career that demands a lot of time from him; he was supposed to meet Bonnie and some of her work friends for after-work drinks but had to blow her off to entertain a client.

Bonnie has been through the drill before though and she and her friends Priya (Loften) and Jack (Ricamora) drink heavily, dance like there’s no tomorrow and generally have the kind of good time that New Yorkers seem to instinctively know how to have. As her friends scatter, Bonnie refuses Jack’s offer to share a cab and decides to walk the few blocks home.

Intoxicated and wearing headphones, she doesn’t hear her attacker until it’s much too late. She is dragged into an alley and raped. It isn’t a long, drawn-out attack but to Bonnie it musts have seemed interminable. Her attacker, having done what he wanted to do, leaves her to pull her panties up, gather herself together, wipe herself off with tissue paper and stagger back home. Matt hasn’t arrived yet so she puts her panties and the tissue paper she wiped herself off with and when Matt arrives home and sees the black eye and nasty cut on her forehead, accompanies her to the Emergency Room. Led to believe it was only a mugging, she confesses in a small child-like voice that she was raped.

Matt is devastated, guilty that he wasn’t there to protect her as she should have been. Bonnie wants as few people to know as possible – she tells her colleagues at work that she was mugged but neglects to mention the sexual assault. She also refuses to tell her family that she was raped, leaving Matt, the detectives working her case and the DA who is prosecuting it the only ones who know.

At first Matt is overly attentive, fixing her breakfast, coming home early and cooking dinner. Bonnie wonders why he wasn’t giving her this much TLC before she was raped. She seems to be in a place where she just wants to move on and put it behind her but Matt worries that she’s not really dealing with the trauma. When he suggests she join a support group, Bonnie snarls “I don’t want to join the Sisterhood of Rape Victims.”

Intimacy between Matt and Bonnie becomes a minefield. He is concerned about hurting her; she wants the sex to be as raw and as rough as it was before the incident. Gradually the two begin to move inexorably apart; Matt desperately wants to do the right thing but doesn’t understand what Bonnie needs. Bonnie herself just wants to put her ordeal behind her but everybody who know about her rape treats her like she’s made of glass. When Matt tries to explain “This happened to us” he doesn’t realize how that must sound to Bonnie; nor does Bonnie understand that there is an element of truth in that Matt is affected by her trauma.

I wasn’t sure that this movie was going to be anything but a glossy Lifetime movie version of a serious topic but my fears on that subject turned out to be groundless. This is a powerful, sometimes raw and sometimes very hard to watch look at the aftermath of one of the worst things that can happen to a woman. Survivors of sexual assault may end up being triggered by the movie; although the rape scene itself isn’t very graphic (there is no skin and the scene is mostly dark and a close-up of Bonnie’s face) it is still very realistic and may not be suitable for those sensitive to depictions of sexual assault. You should decide for yourself if you are up for viewing the movie on that basis.

That said it is an educational look at the aftermath which is something that often gets short shrift in the discussion of rape. Bonnie finds that people look at her differently as a sexual assault victim; she becomes an object of pity, one to be handled delicately. Bonnie doesn’t want to be handled; she knows she’s strong, she knows she is a survivor and she simply wants to move on. Society wants her to deal with the trauma and she simply doesn’t want to. Is her approach a healthy one? Most would say no, but who’s to say what’s healthy for one individual may not be for another?

Beatriz gives us a searing performance; Bonnie can be both brittle and fragile, or tough and strident. There aren’t a lot of histrionics here but there are a lot of powerful emotions handled with empathy and with dignity. Beatriz, who is known most for her role on Brooklyn Nine Nine is a star in the making. Performances like this can move her right up to the next level.

There are some things that I wish first-time feature filmmaker Thompson would have done a little differently; the indie trope of the young professionals living in an amazing book-filled apartment in New York City (at a rent that would likely cost them the GNP of a small country in real life) and the overuse of Bonnie going into a dissociative trance with the sound getting muddied like the microphone is underwater. Other than that, this is truly a rich story well told and well acted and tackling a subject that is often taboo but is something that we SHOULD be talking about.

With all the focus on how much sexual assault, molestation and harassment that goes on today it is time that we had a conversation about the real trauma of rape and this movie helps to initiate that conversation. In that sense it is as timely a film as it possibly could be but then again this is a conversation long overdue. Again, some survivors may have a hard time with this and should be aware of what their tolerance for this kind of realism I going to be. Beyond that, this is a movie everybody should see.

REASONS TO GO: The acting performances are strong throughout and Beatriz is absolutely extraordinary. A timely arrival in the wake of the Facebook “Me Too” campaign. A realistic relationship and the effects of sexual assault on that relationship are portrayed.
REASONS TO STAY: There are a few indie clichés in the mix.
FAMILY VALUES: There is an intense depiction of a rape, sexual content, profanity, violence and it goes without saying, adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Most of the crew including the director, writer, cinematographer and editor are either women or minorities.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/5/17: Rotten Tomatoes: 100% positive reviews. Metacritic: 76/100.

Pick of the Litter – November 2017


Justice League

(Warner Brothers) Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller. With Superman seemingly out of the picture and an alien threat putting Earth squarely in the crosshairs, Bruce Wayne aka the Batman sets out to unite the most powerful beings on Earth to fight this threat but without the Last Son of Krypton, what chance do they have? Continuing events set in motion with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the DCEU continues to evolve. November 17


The Light of the Moon

(Imagination Worldwide) Stephanie Beatriz, Michael Stahl-David, Conrad Ricamora, Catherine Curtin. After a young woman is sexually assaulted on her way home, she finds every aspect of her life changing from her success as an architect to her relationship with her boyfriend. As she struggles to find a way to find intimacy and regain her sense of self she finds that the strongest obstacles are often the people who mean the most in this particularly timely drama. November 1


Blade of the Immortal

(Magnet) Takuya Kimura, Hana Sugisaki, Sôta Fukushi, Hayato Ichihara. A legendary samurai is cursed with immortality after a crucial battle. Doomed to wander the earth, he knows he must kill enough evil in the world to regain his soul. Haunted by the brutal murder of his sister, he meets a young girl whose own family was slaughtered by a ruthless swordsman. He agrees to be her bodyguard and take on the murderer. This is the latest movie from iconic Japanese director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer) – his 100th feature, an astonishing number to say the least. November 3

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

(Fox Searchlight) Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage. A woman grieving the loss of a murdered daughter grows impatient with the local police department which has yet to solve the crime. In order to spur them on, she puts up a series of billboards near her home in Missouri asking why there has been no progress on the case. The results cause fireworks in her community, making her a hero to some and a pariah to others. There is buzz that McDormand has a good shot at an Oscar nomination for her performance here. November 10


(Netflix) Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell. Two men from rural Mississippi return home from World War II to find that nothing much has changed but that they themselves have. One, an African-American, finds that the country he put his life on the line for despises him for the color of his skin; the other, a white man, wonders if he can ever go back to the way things used to be. November 17

Brimstone & Glory

(Oscilloscope) Viktor Jakovlevski. One of the most unusual and dangerous celebrations on Earth is the National Pyrotechnic Festival in the village of Tultepec, Oaxaca, Mexico. During the 10 day celebration, elaborate fireworks displays are set off but not just high into the air; fireworks are shot everywhere and at everything. People – mostly men – dance among the fireworks and while some get severely burned, there is a religious ecstasy that is fascinating and beautiful to watch. November 22

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

(Zeitgeist/Kino-Lorber) Hedy Lamarr, Diane Kruger, Robert Osborne, Mel Brooks. Hedy Lamarr was one of the most beautiful women in the world and a major Hollywood star. Admired for her classical good looks, she eventually faded from notoriety as she got older as is wont to happen with actresses who have the temerity to age. However, behind the beauty was brilliance – Lamarr was responsible for inventing the technology that made GPS, secure Wi-Fi and Bluetooth possible but nobody would believe at the time someone so good looking could possibly be so smart. November 24