reibureibu’s review published on Letterboxd:
This movie absolutely ruined me. The emotions that Willam Dafoe, Bria Vinaite, even Caleb Laundry Jones were conveying were all done in with such a deft hand that I didn't even notice when they gutted me.
Of all the possible conflicts in here, I think the critical one is the perception of a child and how one remembers their childhood memories. For Moonee, her life is all she's ever known and so she doesn't see that her life living in hotels and walking down the highway as sad or unfair; rather, she's able to put a positive spin on these daily occurrences that highlights the sheer creativity the mind of a child possesses. For us as the adult audience, we see her experiences as deeply sad and very unfair, and by all accounts she should be living with a family that can better take care of her than Halley is able to.
But it's definitely not that easy. So we pull Moonee out of her current home and put her somewhere else. Does that make her happier? It certainly separates her from her mother, who clearly is devastated by the idea. But we can't just leave them where they are either, as Halley can't sustain their current existence and has to resort to increasingly harmful methods to support them both, but for the most part we can see that it's not due to her lack of trying. In the end, it's just a deeply sad scenario where ultimately the state has failed them and there's nothing but a lose-lose situation in the end.