‘The Moon & Back’ Review: A Profoundly Satisfying Indie Film That Deserves A Viewing


The coming-of-age genre has been a melting pot of ideas that keeps giving. I particularly find the sentimentality of it quite awe-inspiring, and it seems like I can never get enough of it. Add to that a sprinkle of grief, and I’m 100% sold. The Moon & Back is obviously a low-budget film about a girl dealing with her father’s death, but the simple film takes us to a simpler time when it was much easier to act on your imagination on a whim. Leah Bleich’s film is about a girl named Lydia, who’s lost her father and is desperate to keep her connection with him alive. Set in the 2000s (costumes on point), the film evokes a profound feeling of nostalgia that somehow feels fresh in today’s economy. Amidst her confusion, Lydia learns that her father has left behind a script unattended—a space odyssey that needs to be realized, and only she can do it!

I suppose what makes this film work so well is how removed it is from the opulence of today. Director and writer Leah Bleich paints an incredibly simple yet scintillating picture of a confused girl in a world where everybody thinks they know what she’s dealing with. There’s nothing revolutionary in this script, yet it will leave you in tears and with a need to tell your family how much you love them. This same grieving story has been told a million times before and will continue to be told till the end of time because, in my opinion, humans find sorrow the most grueling out of all the emotions. I mean, there are endless manners in which we deal with it. The Moon & Back is made in such a way that it makes us feel Lydia’s sadness intimately, despite her lack of the ability to actually express it. Though the film doesn’t present it like it’s from Lydia’s point of view, I found myself understanding exactly how she was feeling along the way. 

For someone with a bad attitude, Lydia’s conduct is more petty misdemeanor than rebellion or straight-up hate. She’s got an obviously laborious relationship with her mother and no friends except for her school counselor, with whom she eats lunch every day (yikes, talk about a new low). Her little annoyance is almost like an un-squashable gnat. However, once she finds her creative calling in her father’s work, she grows as a person, slowly yet surely. This is not to say that Lydia transforms overnight and becomes the nicest girl in town, but she genuinely starts to care. There’s a loveliness to young actress Isabel May, who plays off Lydia’s obnoxious quirks as cute and charming rather than exasperating. For the most part, the film is solely focused on her, and she’s able to carry it with ease. However, this doesn’t mean that her supporting cast isn’t just as fantastic. Can I just say that, as someone who grew up in the 2000s, I will never be able to take Missi Pyle seriously? I’m sorry, she was just shoved in this box at the time! However, it’s nice to see her as an independent mother with a lot on her plate. P.J. Byrne, as the counselor, Mr. Martin, is definitely a highlight of the film. I do remember his performance in Babylon, and this one is just as great! Miles Gutierrez-Riley is the best friend and the geek in the film. Isabel and Miles share great chemistry, and you really want them to become best buddies.

The narrative is calm and soothing, so don’t let your jaded perception of opulence in the age of social media dull out the experience of this film. The film feels like taking a trip down memory lane, with a sepia filter and glitches. The Moon & Back is a wholesome film that is occasionally poignant and otherwise very feel-good. Keep your tissues ready if you’re prone to tears because this film will definitely get to you. It’s not like a Marriage Story or a Bridge to Terabithia, where the feeling lingers through the film, but it creeps up on you slowly and then gives you a big ol’ jumpscare that makes you feel a profound sense of sadness and hope simultaneously. In all honesty, I was expecting a plain old coming-of-age, “two kids fall in love and one saves the other from completely destroying their lives” kind of film (so much for jaded perceptions, amirite), but I was quite enraptured by this film. 

I’d say The Moon & Back is a great family watch, and even the super young ones will also find it quite entertaining and easy to understand. With the way we consume media today, it’s hard to find something that strikes the right balance for family night, but this one is actually perfect. I guess it’s the perspective in which grief is depicted; though one might think it’s a very adult subject, Leah somewhat dumbs it down for all to grasp and enjoy. 

There’s always something beautiful about the unembellished, and The Moon & Back is a really stripped-back film that is simple yet effective. It’s not giving you anything new; it’s not even got anything special going for it, yet it feels like a gift of some sort and quite a rewarding experience. I’m not one to give high praise despite my lack of critique; mostly, I’m just blank or simply bored because of the amount of content I have to consume for work. However, sometimes, an indie film like this comes along, and I’m grateful for what I do. I suppose it boils down to the fact that, despite the subject of the film being somewhat sensitive, there’s an ease with which it plays out and never feels burdening or lighthearted; it’s somewhere in the middle, which makes it an easy-breezy watch. The film’s got no profanity and is ideal for a family watch, but keep your tissues handy, and if your kids are really young, be ready for all the questions regarding the retro tech in the film and to tell them creativity is more about the heart than what you use to express it. You’ll know what I mean when you see the film. I’d give The Moon & Back 3.5 stars and 4 on a good day because it made me laugh and cry. Give this one a go if you’re looking for something cute and emotional. 

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
When not tending to her fashion small business, Ruchika or Ru spends the rest of her time enjoying some cinema and TV all by herself. She's got a penchant for all things Korean and lives in drama world for the most part.

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