The Florida Project

The Florida Project ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

The Florida Project sees the light in its environment, the color in the world. Your mom can't keep a job and is resorting to perfume selling and prostitution. All you know is deviancy, and yet you find that most adults don't like this. People see your situation and feel bad that you exist. Your friends are slowly moving away from this place that's supposed to be temporary. And yet here you are, what do you make of it?

Well, here you make what you can. Your life is sideways, but you keep growing. Some people will despise you, some will envy you, some both. The world isn't bills and crumbling friendships, it's your playground. Every single thing in this world is pulling you out of your joy. I've certainly been dragged kicking and screaming out of my childhood, days that feel like a whole other life.

When I was little I had a blue blanket, aptly named Blue Blankey. I loved that blanket so much. It got dirty, it got too small, and now I don't know where it is. I think my mom may still have it. I also had an imaginary friend named Ghosty. I'd always used to buckle him into the middle seat of our car, and my brother (older by 2 years) would get irritated and unbuckle him, insisting Ghosty isn't real. Frankly, this disregard of road safety could've gotten Ghosty seriously hurt if anything went awry. My mom always told me stories about how my brother had nightmares that pumpkins would cook him in the oven and eat him, prompting him to sleep with my mom after yelling "PUMTINS!" at her multiple times. So who's irrational now, huh? I used to live in a trailer park in Kansas around the Recession. I don't remember much from it, but I have vague memories of maybe playing with a kid named Owen in the streets. I might even be mixing that up with some other house/kid, we moved around a lot in my early years.

I don't really remember much about Kansas, the part I recall most vividly is leaving it. We only lived there for a year, if even that. I just remember sitting in the back of some car looking out at the night sky as we crossed a bridge on our way to a Red Roof Inn in Western Pennsylvania. All I remember from these are going to Denny's, buying apple juice, and calling it the Red Roof I.N.N. Funny how these memories work. Fast-forward several years and I'm in sixth grade or so, which feels like a distant memory but really wasn't all that long ago. I started a YouTube channel a year or two prior, and I'd been posting to it religiously. I played with my school friends, an older brother of a kid in my grade that I found out lived down my street, and some friends we met online (I don't remember how we met whatsoever). We played Minecraft all the time, I'd sometimes record these sessions. I put them on my YouTube and hoped I'd blow up. These were lofty goals, looking back the videos were really bad and mostly 1-hour videos of doing mundane things in Minecraft. But it's those moments I had with my friends that I remember. I remember most of all playing Minecraft with online friends one time, going to dinner, and saying I'd be right back. That was the last time I remember talking to them.

I'm still friends with some of the IRL people from that time of my life, but the others have just drifted away into my memory. I'd like to think my time with them meant something to them, I think it's shaped me more than I know. Now I have to grow up. Mostly I've been forced to, I've had to learn to navigate an unforgiving school system and an emotionally charged divorce. Three-and-a-half years ago, my mother told me she and dad were getting a divorce and I just sat there and said "Okay." I don't know who that broke more. I don't have the lofty dreams I once had, they've been beaten out of me by some false necessity. I've started driving, I'm looking at colleges, I'm almost allowed to watch R-rated movies alone in theaters. I just look back and think if I want to. I'm looking at my childhood as I write this through blinding tears and I don't want to lose it. I talk a lot about a child's view of the world in my reviews, and I see that view slip through my fingers in real-time. Being aware of my environment has been forced on me, and sometimes I just don't want it anymore. I just want to run through Disney World one last time, to not have to see the world for what it is. My life as I know it is falling apart, and my next chapter is coming whether I like it or not. If there's one thing Sean Baker knows that I need to learn, it's that rose is a beautiful tint.

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