SXSW Film Review:
The Light of the Moon
by Trish Connelly
All too often films involving sexual assault/rape scenes seem like a convenient plot point to make a female character complex without ever actually exploring its complexities. Jessica M. Thompson’s film, The Light of the Moon, carefully considers the nuances of one individual’s experience without ever asserting that there is one authentic or correct way to process trauma. It’s clear from the start that Bonnie (Stephanie Beatriz) is an independent and successful businesswoman, poised and assertive, however with some stressors underlying her relationship with her boyfriend Matt (Michael Stahl-David). After leaving a party with her friends one night, Bonnie is sexually assaulted and raped. After revealing to Matt what happened to her, she decides not to divulge to her friends, family, or coworkers about the experience, instead telling them she was mugged to explain the visible bruises. The film gradually unravels the many layers of denial and grief that Bonnie experiences and the effect it has on her and her relationships.
As much as Matt struggles to find the right things to say and do, Bonnie’s assertion to regain her independence often clash with Matt’s notions of trying to take care of her and protect her, the two of them attempting to navigate the best way to proceed with their relationship in newfound emotional territory. Bonnie often wishes things could just go back to the way they were, gradually getting worn down by her coworkers lighthearted jokes and her boss’ unwillingness to accept that Bonnie can handle her increasing workload. Thompson puts to light the various forces working against survivors of rape, from Bonnie believing that her mother would blame the attack on her due to her resentment to her daughter moving in with her boyfriend, the hospital staff subtly placing guilt due to drinking that night, and the justice system not taking her case seriously nor instilling any emotional empathy in regards to her situation. Bonnie’s path is never an easy one nor is the process of healing while trying to assess and understand her emotions. She often lashes out at Matt and displays a thick skin, yet there are moments of beautiful vulnerability and realization that love and assurance are needed to help throughout her journey. The Light of the Moon tosses preconceived assumptions of the aftermath of rape out the window, instead allowing female voices to explore the theme’s understated intricacies as well as allowing personal introspection of healing in one’s own time.
Trish Connelly is the Austin-based guru who does booking and promoting at Cheer Up Charlies under The Nothing Song. She’s always down to collaborate and plan a show or event in town. She’s an expert with mixtapes (for all musicians out there you’ll want to send her your stuff!), and making connections with the cool kids. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.