“Lifetime Original Movie” is glib, pejorative criticspeak that no movie with a female protagonist and women-centric subject matter wants as a label. And I might add, that no critic wants to use when the movie’s subject is rape and its aftereffects on the victim.
But for too much of its length, Jessica M. Thompson’s “The Light of the Moon” flirts with that bland, predictable TV movie formula. It’s a point-by-unsurprising point “Special Victims Unit” depiction of events before the crime, the awful crime itself, the moment the police get involved and how Bonnie (Stephanie Beatriz) copes — or avoids coping — with what happens at work, in public and in bed with her boyfriend Matt (Michael Stahl-David) over the next month.
We’ve got the victim feeling accused by invasive police questions, the suggestion that going out by yourself, getting drunk and walking home with headphones on, late at night in Brooklyn, maybe wasn’t the smartest move Bonnie ever made.
There’s the ever-AWOL Matt, out late with “clients” one more time, the gay best friend (Conrad Ricamora) who snipes “I envy how much makeup sex you two must have.” Followed by enormous guilt, walking on eggshells around Bonnie and still managing to say the wrong thing, time and again.
But we can see Bonnie is troubled, fret over her refusal to “share” this awful thing that happened with others (“That puts it all on me,” Matt complains.) even if she’s not buying into whatever the rape victims’ support group she visits one time is selling.
A waitress wants to know if she’s “OK,” because she has a black eye, assuming her boyfriend beats her.
Then “Moon” gets better. A legal advocate for victims levels with her — “We’re not changing the criminal justice system in a single day.” Bonnie renewing her sexual relationship with Matt turns…weird — for both of them. Every conflict between them is wiped away, every thing that came easily turns tentative.
And everything she’s been pushing out of her mind, bottled up in her psyche, starts to erupt as she lays out every indignity this creep has added to her life, every self-doubt, every fear, every outrage over a system that doesn’t catch guys like that quickly enough visits upon victims.
It’s not a great film, but Beatriz grows in stature as Bonnie searches for firmer footing. She and Stahl create a relationship that feels lived-in and fragile.
And first-time feature writer/director Thompson finally gets to pieces of this story we haven’t seen dozens of times before…in a Lifetime Original Movie.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with violence, sexual assault, substance abuse and a sex scene
Credits: Written and directed by Jessica M. Thompson. An Imagination Worldwide release
Running time: 1:34