Wes Anderson's newest film Moonrise Kingdom which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year is as charming as any of his previous films (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr Fox), perhaps even more so because here finally, Anderson has embraced the fact that his films are trying to re-capture a certain nostalgia for childhood that adults can never fully regain.
The film is set on a fictitious island called New Penzance that is supposedly in the vicinity of New England. On this rather magical island there are many different landscapes, ranging from woods complete with rushing streams, open fields where one might easily be struck by lightning, craggy rocky areas, and, of course, a magical little inlet that is hidden from the world.
It is to this inlet that Suzy Bishop (played by Kara Hayward) and Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) are headed. The two perceive themselves as outcasts, misunderstood by their peers, runaways from home. They are also 12-years-old.
Sam has absconded from his Khaki Scout summer camp on the island, taking with him essentials such as food, comprehensive camping gear (albeit a bit miniature), and an air gun for survival on the island. Suzy arrives to meet Sam armed with her cat, a suitcase full of books, and her little brother's record player.
And off they go, pursued by Sam's Scout Master Randy Ward (the ever great Edward Norton), Captain Sharp (the island's chief authority played by Bruce Willis), Suzy's parents Walt and Laura Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand respectively), and 'Social Services' (played by Tilda Swinton) who wants to commit Sam to juvenile refuge because his foster parents have declined to have him back.
As with all of Anderson's film the ensemble cast is essential in the always whimsical, always original, always delightful antics of the characters. While Suzy and Sam develop an affinity for each other, other characters too, come into their own, however comically.
For those who love Wes Anderson films, Moonrise Kingdom carries all the hallmarks of his past successes. The sets are intricately detailed with painstaking attention, so much so that future repeat viewing of Anderson's films are particularly delightful for catching what one might have initially missed. Nothing is left to chance, each set is personally overseen by Anderson himself, and Suzy's books, though fictitious, have a ring of truth in them, partly because Anderson himself wrote some of the passages that she reads out loud every night, first to Sam and later to his entire Khaki scout troupe.
I will not go into details regarding the slightly convoluted adventures that these children, pursued by their respective frantic adults, embark upon, even after Sam and Suzy's apprehension from their Moonrise Kingdom inlet haven. Suffice to say that they are both heart-breaking and hilarious.
With this latest film Anderson has done the very difficult: he has tapped into our deepest childhood fears, our happiest memories, the innocence of make-believe that one never again feels after adolescence, and the very real conflict between children and adults, which if not treated with respect, can lead to deep and enduring trauma.