The Man in the Moon Review

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In 1957, fourteen-year-old tomboy Dani Trant develops a crush on the farmboy next door (London) only to lose him to her older sister (Warfield)


This is one of those ‘after that summer, nothing would ever be the same again’ films. It opens with a pan down from a gorgeously glowing moon - photographed by an astronaut from an angle it is impossible to see from Earth, but never mind - to a picturesque Louisiana farmhouse.

A scratchy Elvis smooch number plays on the soundtrack as two young girls exchange cornpone profundities on the porch, and you know you’re in for another coming-of-age movie in which the wistful longings of adolescents are examined against the soft-focus hard realities of life in a simpler bygone America, with the hard knocks sustained by the adults in the plot implicitly hanging over the futures of the bright-eyed kids.

Director Robert Mulligan, who made the enduring classic To Kill a Mockingbird and the forgotten hit Summer of '42, specialised in wistful coming-of-age dramas, and this is a perfectly acceptable entry in the bittersweet nostalgic sub-genre, remembered mostly as Reese Witherspoon’s debut feature.

The young players are all appealing, though Witherspoon already looks like the stand-out star character actress she would become, while Sam Waterston and Tess Harper, suffering showing in every line on their faces, struggle as the beleaguered farmer parents, perhaps equating the hard time they are having on the land with the way neither of their careers ever quite fulfilled their acting promise.

The trouble, of course, is that apart from occasional dramatic lurches that come out of nowhere, nothing much happens, resulting in a faint sprinkling of tedium beautifully photographed by Freddie Francis in his Straight Story mood, barely relieved by the occasional near-miscarriage or farm accident.

Charming and well-played but a little slow and thin in places