gravityfalling’s review published on Letterboxd:
What do you do when you have so much love to give but no one to receive it? This is a question I have been wrestling with recently, so it's no wonder that on a rewatch I resonated with Willem Dafoe's character Bobby, the manager of The Magic Castle, a motel just outside of Walt Disney World, so much. Bobby to me is the character that balances out the naiveté of Moonee's adventures with her friends as well as Halley's shortcomings as a mother. The way Bobby looks at Moonee and Halley for a second too long before breaking eye contact is akin to the lump in my throat that never went away for the whole duration of the film. For Bobby, the lump is still there as his life passes him by. I don't want my life to pass me by like that.
When I look at Moonee I see a girl with a big imagination. The film is told in Moonee's perspective after all. The cinematography reflects this notion, creating a technicolor dream out of a bleak existence. I love the shots where Moonee and her friends appear small against the cartoonish buildings in the Florida strip. I often forget to take a breather and appreciate where I am. Perhaps all I need is to look at where I am in a different way like Moonee. However, when I look at Moonee I also see a girl who knows more than she lets on. Moonee is always observing Halley for a sign. A sign of what? A sign that Halley will love her unconditionally. This isn't a lot to ask, but Moonee also knows that Halley doesn't have the capacity to. Maybe Moonee should be a kid for a while longer before her mom notices that she knows.
When I look at Halley I see a mom who is doing her best. The film never provides a back story for Halley and I think that is to the film's advantage. If the film had provided a back story, I don't think I would have been as empathetic to Halley's struggle. But I wonder if Halley's parents were trapped in the same cycle of abuse she has found herself in because I hear all the time from people in that situation that the worst-case scenario is becoming like their parents. No matter the reason, I can see that Halley is trying to provide for Moonee. She doesn't have a support network and she doesn't have a stable job, so she tries to provide in the only ways she knows. However, when I look at Halley I also see a person who has done things that are unforgivable. I said before that I was empathetic to Halley's struggle. I want to make clear that I am not sympathetic to Halley's struggle. Yes, there is a difference. This makes the film even more heartbreaking.
The question that I should have been asking myself is this: what do you do when you have so much love to give but there is nothing you can do? I don't think I will ever find the right answer to this question in my lifetime and I don't think Bobby will either, but I know he will keep trying, so I will too.