Film Review: The Light of the Moon

Nicely acted, sincere drama about a woman surviving rape, but it’s so “Been there, done that.”
Specialty Releases

It’s not PC, but golly, I for one am oversaturated with dramatizations of sexual harassment and assault. After a point, it’s just not that interesting—a 90-minute film focusing on the aftermath of a rape wears thin, as finely acted and heartfelt as it may be. Indeed, its earnest tone is a major flaw of writer-director Jessica M. Thompson’s debut feature The Light of the Moon, bringing to mind a guest recounting her experiences to Oprah, Dr. Phil or our latest TV irritant, Megyn Kelly.

Thompson’s film makes me nostalgic for Paul Verhoeven’s controversial Elle. Remember that one about a fifty-something woman who is violently raped by a ski-masked stranger, is aroused even as she viciously assaults him in defense, tracks him down and ultimately falls in love with him (and he with her)? Based on Philippe Djian’s novel Oh… and scripted by David Birke, Elle was despite itself retro in its views—e.g., women dig being raped—though gussied up as a work of transgression. Well, to the degree that it was not politically correct (not initially anyway), perhaps it was a tad inflammatory. Whatever its stumbling blocks, it was not ho-hum. The same cannot be said for The Light of the Moon.

Light tells the story of Bonnie (Stephanie Beatrix), a successful Latina architect who is raped by a hoodie-sporting assailant while walking home from an evening out with friends in Brooklyn. She tries to suppress the trauma and maintain normalcy in her life, but it’s not possible. Feelings of shame and culpability are her constants. She had had a few too many drinks and was plugged into headphones, thus an easy target for assault. She’s further guilt-ridden as the daughter of a traditional Hispanic Catholic mother (Olga Merediz), who already thinks she’s living in sin.

Bonnie tells everyone—including her long-term, live-in boyfriend, Matt (Michael Stahl-David)—that she was mugged. When she finally concedes the truth, he’s overly solicitous even as the image of her being raped becomes an intrusive presence in their lives, especially in their intimate encounters. Neither one can handle it.

Bonnie is not helped by unsympathetic cops, social workers, nurses, or even the seemingly compassionate lawyer who matter-of-factly warns her that that she will be further violated on the stand should the case end up in court. Haven’t we heard all this before? Think “Law & Order: SVU,” eighteen years of it.

We’ve also heard ad nauseam that most traumas can be mitigated by sharing, and that’s the lesson Bonnie must learn—to publicly reveal her secret—in order to feel whole, emancipated and emboldened. In the end, Bonnie tells her mother and her friends, and joins the support group of rape survivors she once shunned as an enclave of self-proclaimed victims. She’s on the path to recovery.

How lovely it would be to see at least one film featuring a character who does not feel remotely liberated by sharing—indeed, quite the opposite.

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