The Light of the Moon Review
As the #MeToo movement continues to grow louder across the globe, it’s worth reflecting at how offensively lazy the treatment of sexual violence in cinema has been. In some cases, such as the recent Wind River, a brutal assault is used as a mere plot point, but more often than not, a sexual assault is consigned to being a McGuffin for a tale of vengeance against the perpetrator. Just as the world is waking up the ugly, widespread reality of sexual assault in various different industries, a film like The Light of the Moon feels like the antidote to cinema’s trivial relationship with this most heinous of crimes. Writer/director Jessica M. Thompson, in her debut feature, has crafted a deeply perceptive film which feels true to the harshness of adjusting back to normality after the unimaginable horror of being raped - it’s genuinely upsetting how relatable I expect this film will be to a large number of its audience members.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz stars as Bonnie, a New York architect living in domestic bliss with her boyfriend Matt (Michael Stahl-David). After cancelling their plans to go meet with a potential investor, Bonnie goes out for a few drinks with colleagues and on the walk home, gets brutally assaulted. In the following hours, she has to come to terms with the previous night’s events, yet her whole world has been irreparably changed; her boyfriend is suddenly overprotective, her facial scars cause her to be the centre of attention and detract from her professional life and she has to keep walking past the scene of the crime on her daily commute.
As society begins to come to terms with this systemic issue, The Light of the Moon feels like the perfect articulation of the inconceivable pain so many women have had to suffer through. The film only ever depicts Beatriz’ face during the assault sequence, which takes place little more than five minutes into the film yet the transition back to reality is arguably more harrowing. Beatriz’ performance captures the trauma in the smallest moments, most impressively in a sequence where she attempts to adjust back to normal in her bathroom immediately following the assault. She goes intimate where other performers would wrongly choose to over-emote and drain the harsh realism from the scene.
The Light of the Moon doesn’t feel like a weighty “issues drama” however, largely as it feels grounded in depicting a relationship gone awry. Thompson’s screenplay has a keen eye for detailing the minutiae of the central dynamic between Bonnie and Matt, both of whom have been shaken by the appalling incident yet are struggling to reconcile that and maintain a healthy, normal relationship. In her attempts to try to move past the incident, Bonnie only goes to further the emotional duress she’s under and cause realistic shifts within the relationship dynamic that are of an increased magnitude, yet winningly portrayed with a remarkable subtlety by both performers. To the film’s credit, it never punishes either partner for their irrational behaviour. Thompson is instead more interested in helping us understand why a sexual assault causes significant behavioural shifts towards everybody in its orbit - turning a challenging character study into something which feels more innately empathetic.