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“Do you know why this is my favourite tree? Because it tipped over and it’s still growing,” says six year old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) to her friend Jancey (Valeria Cotto) as they sit atop a huge fallen tree. The line and the image sum up the spirit of pragmatic tenacity in Sean Baker’s richly human yet unsentimental new film.

Set in the town of Kissamee – once a tacky tourist resort and now an abandoned wasteland of garishly painted motels and absurdly shaped shops, the story centres around Moonee and her single mum, Halley (Bria Vinaite) who live in the mauve coloured Magic Castle motel. For Halley, every day is quest to make it through to the next and she employs all her ingenuity and resources to get there. For Moonee, every day is an adventure she shares with friends, Jancey and Scooty (Christopher Rivera) in a landscape that is just as exciting as Walt Disney World only a short distance away. Willem Defoe as Bobby the motel manager, is like a favourite pair of shoes – weathered and rough, but feel good.

An absolute winner.

★★★★

Reviewed by Rita Bratovich