The Light of the Moon | Jessica M. Thompson | November 1, 2017
The Light of the Moon is not an easy film to watch. With today’s headlines being dominated by sexual assault stories though, this film is an important one. It carefully explores how deep a single act of violence and assault can affect every single aspect of a person’s life. The Light of the Moon stars Brooklyn 99‘s Stephanie Beatriz as Bonnie. She is a successful architect with a good social life, and her loving boyfriend Matt (Narcos‘ Michael Stahl-David). Shortly after some character introductions, Bonnie goes out for some after work drinks with her co-workers. She has a bit too much, but tells her friends that she’s alright to walk home. While listening to music, she is attacked and pulled into an alley, where she is violently sexually assaulted.
The rape scene is horrifying to watch, specifically because of how real it feels. It’s not a drawn-out scene. It happens quickly, with Bonnie being more in shock that it’s even happening. Bonnie miraculously gets herself together and continues her walk home. When her boyfriend Matt comes home, Bonnie breaks down, but initially tells him that she was mugged. Stephanie Beatriz gives an intense and vulnerable performance as Bonnie. She is mostly known for her deadpan and dry comedic skills on FOX’s Brooklyn 99. Here, she plays Bonnie so realistically and raw that you feel exactly how she feels at any given moment. Scenes with law enforcement bring up the shame, embarrassment, and utter awfulness of the procedures that rape victims have to go through.
Writer and director Jessica M. Thompson has crafted a small yet powerful film here. Every single line of dialogue feels real, and the standout performances by Beatriz and Stahl-David are bursting with sincerity. This is a film about two people coming to terms with a terrible event. Grief happens differently for everyone, and Thompson clearly knows this. At first, Bonnie is horrified at what happened to her, but also hates the unwanted attention. She tells her co-workers that it was just a mugging. She only tells Matt, which in turn, makes him feel burdened and confused about how to act around Bonnie.
The film has some of the most realistic situations and dialogue I’ve seen in quite some time. It takes on the hard subjects. What would you do if your spouse was assaulted? How would you treat them differently? How do you approach sex and intimacy after being violated like that? These hard questions get answered from this one couple’s point of view, and it is devastating to watch. The two leads have such good chemistry, that you can sometimes feel like you’re eavesdropping on a real couple having a major crisis of understanding.
Thompson also does a great job at not painting either person as totally right or wrong. Bonnie is upset that Matt becomes more caring and thoughtful. She even goes as far to say, “you actually cooked me dinner, and all that had to happen was me getting raped.” Bonnie’s defense mechanism of comedy strikes a good balance for Stephanie Beatriz’s skills as an actor. Matt is mostly at a loss, because whatever he does, he can’t seem to let go and let Bonnie grieve in her own way. The film goes back and forth with Bonnie being annoyed and also comforted by the support of her boyfriend. She wants to move on, but the film does a great job of showing Bonnie’s hesitance to actually confront what happened to her.
The Light of the Moon is a small film that tackles a huge issue with care and honesty. It’s a complex look into what sexual assault can do to an individual and a relationship. It’s not the most pleasant film to sit through, but I applaud its honesty and deep dive into the psychological ramifications of rape. Who wants one event to define the rest of your life? Bonnie’s journey of coming to terms with what happened to her will stick with me for a long time. That’s what films like this are supposed to do.