The Light of the Moon

In the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, and subsequent creative types ousted for lewd behavior, The Light of the Moon couldn’t feel any timelier or necessary. Under the deft hand of writer-director Jessica M. Thompson – in a feature debut – the movie unfolds even-handedly, staying clear of the easiest path the story could go.

Bonnie (Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz) is a hard-working architect living in Brooklyn with her boyfriend Matt (Michael Stahl-David). Bonnie and Matt don’t seem to spend a great deal of time together; he’s constantly working, on the road or entertaining clients at night when she gets home from work. In fact, he was supposed to join Bonnie out one night with some co-workers but ended up having to work. Bonnie still goes out and walks home late at night after drinking and is violently attacked and sexually assaulted.

“…The Light of the Moon, couldn’t feel any timelier or necessary.”

Expectedly, Bonnie is in a great deal of shock and has a difficult time processing what happened to her. When Matt arrives home, she tries to pass the attack off as a mugging but at the hospital she is forced to call it exactly what it was. As the survivor, Bonnie can’t fathom a world where she has to tell people what actually happened to her.

The Light of the Moon unfolds through Bonnie’s eyes and how she intends to cope with the traumatic experience. Matt, who hasn’t won any gold medals as a boyfriend, tries to comfort her in any way he can, almost suffocating the steadfast Bonnie with attention she doesn’t want. She tries to make light of Matt serving her breakfast in bed, wondering if this was a situation that actually called for that. Matt is made more uncomfortable by her comments than Bonnie.

The smartest thing Thompson does with her script is never take a stance on a right or wrong way to cope. In fact, she firmly tells us there is no definitive way to regain your physical and mental strength after undergoing what Bonnie did. For the majority of the film, Bonnie chooses to keep everyone at a distance and not tell anyone the truth, so it looks like she is bouncing back with no problem after a mugging.

“The smartest thing Thompson does with her script is never take a stance on a right or wrong way to cope.”

Bonnie is hurting and almost straining herself trying to be okay but Beatriz’s terrific performance shows us Bonnie knows this event will linger with her forever. It’s important she deal with this on her own accord, without the help of Matt, a support group or a fellow survivor, who tries to take comfort in their shared experiences.

Thompson’s movie doesn’t use the assault as a plot device to spark any kind of revenge tale, which a much more average film would. Instead, she dares to stay with the characters and allow us in as we watch them evolve as they cope. It’s simple but effective and an assured debut by a first-time director.

The Light of the Moon (2017) Directed by Jessica M. Thompson. Written by Jessica M. Thompson. Starring Stephanie Beatriz and Michael Stahl-David.

Grade: B+

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