(Netflix Streaming, August 2018) Owing to its Oscar nominations, I read a bit about The Florida Project and, frankly, wasn’t expecting to like it a lot. I’m not a big fan of downtrodden characters, poverty dramas or indie-budget wonders. And yet, despite expectations, I was gradually taken by the film and particularly the way it juxtaposes the dream sold at the nearby Disney Park with the misery shared by its protagonists. I strongly suspect that much of the film’s ultimate impact (and it does get intense toward the end) has a lot to do with being the father of a girl of the same age as one of the film’s protagonist. There’s something that I can’t quite handle at this moment about kids in danger (whether immediate of structural, the later of which The Florida Project acutely depicts) that short-circuits a lot of my critical instincts. Still, there’s no denying that writer/director Sean Baker knows what he’s going after: The depiction of desperately poor people shuffling from one hotel to another is gripping. Giving a father-figure role to Willem Dafoe is a great idea—after so many villainous roles, it’s simply a joy to see him as a purely good character, and he got nominated for an Oscar as well. Alas, the rest of The Florida Project plays on an entirely different (and worsening) register, pitting childlike innocence against adult doom until there’s nowhere else to go but in fantasy. Whew. It concludes with a devastating ending, and yet the only one appropriate for the film.