Lots of movies have been made about poor kids with deadbeat parents. They are often pretty downer films that show just how awful everything is. This Film does not do that. Instead it celebrates the ability for kids to have fun and get in trouble but know it's all in good fun in an attempt to beat the boredom of having a summer vacation in a motel with nowhere else to go.
We follow some motor-mouthed trouble making kids out to have some fun over the summer. More or less oblivious to what is going on in their parents lives which are to say the least not great. The manager of the hotel knows that he is essentially running an apartment complex but as per the laws has to kick out customers every 30 days to avoid “permanent resident” status. He does odd jobs and deals with the various residents in the hotel, most of the time to protect the children living in the motel, getting woman to cover up and telling off suspicious characters that wonder in. It is that kind of community that really makes this film work. It's a bunch of people working together to keep their makeshift community in tact. Watching a house burn down turns into almost a block party because it is the most exciting thing to happen to the community in who knows how long.
I enjoyed the film for what it was. A little slice of summer time fun mixed in with enough commentary and drama to make more than something frivolous while avoiding the cliches of going dark and abusive. The performances and great from the kids and parents and Willem Dafoe does a wonderful job as the manager. The hijinks the kids get into is fun to watch and brings you back to the days of kids trying to be grown ups because in their worlds they already are. They have a long leash and they use it. The adults meanwhile do their best to hid the conflict from the kids and hustle to get by to give them as normal a life as they can.
This was a good slice of life drama that focused on the kids and how they handle everything. It's a bit sad but mostly uplifting as we get to see the life through the eyes of kids and that is no easy thing to capture. Sean Baker does that with this film and it is a welcome addition to the genre.
An ugly world seen through kids eyes makes things better.