CANNES, France (Reuters) - The cliché “not a dry eye in the house” summed up the ending of “The Florida Project”, as the movie’s two young stars - no older than six when they shot it - got a standing ovation at the premier and wiped away each others’ tears.
The tiny Brooklynn Kimberly Prince plays Moonee who lives with her unmarried mother in The Magic Castle, a motel on the grimier side of Orlando built for budget visitors to nearby Disney World but which now houses homeless families.
Featuring Willem Dafoe as the motel’s manager, in what The Guardian called “one of the best film performances of his entire career”, the movie shows the joy of childhood surviving intense economic hardship and a family’s uncertain future.
After the movie’s heartbreaking ending, Prince, now 7, and her co-star Valeria Cotto, 6, shared a handkerchief and soaked up the applause.
“I think it was awesome,” Prince said of the premiere where she saw the movie for the first time.
“I got a little emotional ... it was mostly really good to see me and how I acted and how I just - there’s a lot of emotions in it.”
Reuters accompanied the youngster, and the actress who plays her 22-year-old mother, Bria Vinaite, as they prepared for the premiere in the “Directors’ Fortnight” section of the festival.
“I feel like a princess right now,” said Prince, as she sat for her hair and makeup in an apartment a few streets back from the seafront where the film was to be shown.
Director Sean Baker, whose last film “Tangerine” was shot entirely on iPhones, called his young star - who has been acting half of her short life, but never in a major movie, a “godsend”.
He gave the role of her mother to the strikingly-tattooed Vinaite after seeing the her Instagram account from which she sells home-made clothes, taking a gamble by putting someone new to acting into a key role.
Hollywood Reporter called “The Florida Project” a “vibrant portrait of life on the shabbier fringes of America” that “takes glorious advantage of the bubblegum palette and architectural absurdity of the setting ... It’s hard to recall another movie about poverty with so much visual pop.”
Writing by Robin Pomeroy, editing by Pritha Sarkar