Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Love, be it true or mixed-up or even forbidden, is still love.

We can pretend to want to be isolated; some by circumstances beyond their control are isolated but it doesn’t stop true love hitting you when it happens.

In The Godfather (1972) when the exiled Michael Corleone wanders the Sicilian hills with his bodyguards, he is captivated at the sight of a young village girl, Apollonia. One of the henchmen says to Michael: “I think you got hit by the thunderbolt,”, using an age-old Sicilian expression to explain the look on his boss’s face.

Can we fall in love like this? Are we so certain that on our first look or conversation with a person that he or she is ‘the right one’?


I am, and Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom (2012) wonderfully supports the sentiment.

Anderson has directed and co-written (with Roman Coppola, son of The Godfather’s director, Francis) a delightful film that re-imagines a nostalgic time for much of his audience. 

Set on a New England island in 1965, two children, unhappy with their lot – Sam (Jared Gilman) an orphan at a scout camp and Suzy (Kara Hayward) a troubled older sister to three boys about half her age – run away together and create an idyll at an inlet, coldly named for its geographical location. They catch fish to eat, swim in their clothes, cuddle in their underwear while listening to Francoise Hardy and live a ‘married’ life as the girl reads her fantasy books and the boy falls asleep while smoking a briar pipe.

They re-name the cove, Moonrise Kingdom.

The two have a love that goes beyond sexual encounter. Suzy is emotionally upset about her parents, who are in turn disturbed enough by her to own a book called Troublesome Children, but she is a survivor. She doesn’t need Sam to look after her but he does. The caring way he tells her to watch out and be careful as they cross the island towards their idyll is touching and he is also prepared to defend the two of them, with violence if necessary.

Meanwhile, older people are missing them. Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) discovers Sam has cut an escape hole in his tent, hidden behind a poster a la The Shawshank Redemption.  When Suzy’s lawyer parents, Walt and Laura (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) discover she has gone missing, with of all things, her younger brother’s record player, which needs batteries stolen from Dad to power it, they call the law, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis).


The island policeman and Suzy’s mother are sharing an affair which the ever-binocular clad Suzy knows and the adults’ dysfunction bubbles to the surface as their anxiety about the missing children mounts. When Captain Sharp and Scout Master Ward discover that Sam’s foster parents no longer want him, the story takes another twist, eventually with Social Services, the ironically-named character played by Tilda Swinton, becoming involved.

Enter island historian/narrator (Bob Balaban), who explains where the kids would have gone and they are discovered. ‘We’re in love. We just want to be together. What’s wrong with that?’ is Suzy’s simplistic but accurate response.

Scout Master Ward’s troop (“beige lunatics”, according to Walt) dislike Sam but, when their bully leader ends up in the main camp infirmary (after being stabbed with Suzy’s left-handed scissors) they change their tune and help the two escape again.

All this is set in a more pleasant time. The colours and the scenery and the symmetry are beautifully crafted within a delightful love story. Anderson’s homage to other movies may be tongue in cheek but when the young runaways are stuck on a church tower and plan to jump into the flooded grounds below, Suzy’s Butch Cassidy tells Sam’s The Sundance Kid that swimming will be the least of his problems because he will probably break his neck in the fall.

It all ends happily ever after when Captain Sharp takes Sam in and transfers his need for Suzy’s mother into caring for his new charge.

The two young lovers, who had been hit by the thunderbolt, continue to see each other. I believe forever.   They are played by first-timers, Gilman and Hayward.

Famous actors often appear in cameos in quality films. Some appear uncredited or are mentioned for special impact at the conclusion of the credits so I got a big kick seeing Commander Pierce (Harvey Keitel) listed with the minor players

FOOTNOTES: Wes Anderson’s previous films include Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), The Darjeeling Limited (2007) and Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

See biography of Wes Anderson

Attention to detail included credits for the artwork (all original and painted by different artists) on jacket covers of Suzy’s books

Score: 4.5

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