By Mark Saldana

Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)

Actress Stephanie Beatriz might be best known as for her intensity and comic chops on TV’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but the talented actress shows that she can handle the genuine drama and vulnerability that comes with portraying a victim of sexual assault in the outstanding film The Light of the Moon.  The film went on to win the Audience Award in the Narrative Feature Competition and ended up as my second favorite film of the festival.  With The Light of the Moon, writer/director Jessica M. Thompson has made an amazing and heart-rending portrait of a rape victim coping with the aftermath of assault and a film that encourages a serious discussion about rape culture in society.

Beatriz stars as a Bonnie, a strong and determined woman with a successful job, a wicked sense of humor, a loving boyfriend and doting mother.  Bonnie’s seemingly safe and mostly content world get shattered when she gets raped by a stranger on her way home from a night of partying.  Embarrassed and ashamed by the attack, Bonnie tries to keep it a secret from everyone she knows, but the truth slowly gets revealed to her boyfriend Matt (Michael Stahl-David) and her close friends.  In the time after the assault, Bonnie attempts to unsuccessfully cope with the physical and psychological trauma by either making light of it or by trying to dismiss it all together.  This begins to take a serious toll on her relationship with Matt.

With a wonderful mix of humor, torment, love and humanity, The Light of the Moon is not like any film dealing with rape that I have ever seen.  Thompson focuses on the real emotions and thought process of an otherwise, strong woman completely floored by rape, including both the good and bad ways she handles the situation.  Thompson and Stephanie Beatriz do exceptional work in developing a realistic protagonist with all of her flaws and endearing qualities.  As a writer, Thompson has made an intelligent script that serves as a serious commentary on rape and rape culture in the world.  This is a very important film that everyone should see and one that deserves more awards than the one received at SXSW.

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