Moonrise Kingdom

WRITTEN BY: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
DIRECTED BY: Wes Anderson
STARRING: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton
RATING: 3 stars

Wes Anderson films are for dreamers and in Moonrise Kingdom he delivers a bitter-sweet story about first love. The film is told in such a clever way. It's quirky, witty and whimsical. It opened the Cannes Film Festival and has proven to be a popular international film. I'm not sure how Anderson does it, but he manages to make the film feel authentic and magical. It's heart-warming, funny and an adventure.

Set on a New England island in 1965, 12-year-olds Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) fall in love at first sight. They become pen pals and decide to run away together, if only for a week. Sam is an orphan who is an expert scout, while Suzy is a sometimes-violent bookworm. They are both troubled children but they share a connection. Sam brings his survival gear while Suzy brings her cat, some stolen library books and a record player. They have everything they need for their adventure as they settle at a secluded cove they name Moonrise Kingdom. Meanwhile, Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), organises a search party with the Khaki Scouts to find Sam, while Suzy's parents Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand) enlist the help of policeman Sharp (Bruce Willis) to find the children. But there is a storm coming and it threatens to complicate matters even more.

Gilman and Hayward are young actors, but they are remarkable in their roles. Their facial expressions are effective and their mannerisms are spot on. They manage to seem both wise and innocent, as well as clever and brave. They are supported by an excellent adult cast, especially Norton who almost steals the show as the scout who takes his job a little too seriously. Tilda Swinton also has a small role as Social Services (no actual name, just the title), while Harvey Keitel and Bob Balaban also provide some laughs in their small roles. There's a reason why Murray keeps making films with Anderson too – they work well together.

The film is also full of pop culture references and metaphors – most notably, the storm referencing the end of life as the children know it as a new day dawns. The children are on the precipice of adolescence but in many ways they are more mature than the adults in the film. Of course, they are still children and that is shown in some very sweet, awkward and funny moments.

While I'm not sure Moonrise Kingdom will have the lasting effect of other childhood adventure stories like Stand By Me and The Goonies, I am glad someone is still making adventure films that adults and children can enjoy.