Before the accelerated evolution of special effects and 100 million dollar event films, science fiction could consistently be counted on to point the mirror back at us, and discuss topics and ideas that were often not addressed out in the open. Though one may often wonder "how can you accomplish a science fiction film without a hefty budget?" Director Justin Hennard does just that in his MOONLIGHT BY THE SEA, a bordering-on-experimental, hypnotic and disturbing new film that dares to ask questions like "what makes you think you could handle complete freedom, if it was at all possible to regain?"
MOONLIGHT takes place in an unnamed (future) time, an unnamed and overdeveloped city. The Corporation owns, manages, controls, directs, and distributes literally everything in this future world; even illegal drugs are regulated through them, stamped with the bizarre Corporation seal of approval.
Albion Moonlight (Sean Allen) has been a top Corporation salesman for so long he no longer remembers his true name, only his mission. His confining, single-seat spaceship (which he is literally connected to through hundreds of wires) malfunctions on a sales call and crashes on a barren desert planet with limitless borders and wide spaces are far as the eye can see. With no human or Corporation contact, no guidance, no schedule, and no rules, Albion is alone and allowed to think on his own for the first time in his life. And he's never been trained to handle it.
After a flood of thoughts and ideas nearly kills him, he alternates panic, fear, regret, and wonder as he begins to ponder the merits of his lifelong servitude and the whereabouts of his former wife, who was 'removed' from his life many years ago by the Corporation. For the first time, he questions.
Two beings begin to appear to him, the panicked Stranger(Kingsly Martin), a possible copilot of Albion, who is so dependant on the Corporation for guidance that he literally short circuits from his disconnection, and Nomman, (Prince Camp) a charismatic yet slightly sinister man who attempts to pry free thought from Albion's mind at any cost. Do they exist, or are they the representations of Albion's dual allegiance (Corporation-sponsored thought vs. unrestricted thought)? Albion soon learns that either side can be too dangerous for a naked mind.
Running the operation to locate Albion is Gwen Klaus, (Mylinda Wenz) a beautiful and manipulative Corporation official who may know of Albion's whereabouts, but doesn't seem to let on. Is she living vicariously through Albion's escape? Gwen's personal escape is through the Corporation-brand drugs, illegal if taken by members of the ruling board; she alternates her teasing and manipulation of Captain Santop (Gary Peters), who does his best to placate Gwen and the unseen 'Chairman', and is rewarded with brutal mental reconditioning.
Both Albion and Gwen are searching for connection and understanding, in a world that only approves of superficial connections through products that they're continually told will improve their lives and standings. Characters are constantly observed by cameras manned by unseen monitors and the system is so overwhelming that any rebellion will be limited to the realm of thought, or officially sponsored by the Corporation. No, doesn't seem relevant to the times I live in...
Director Hennard knows that the genre is about ideas and isn't afraid to lay them on, digging much deeper than the easy statements the plot could jump on("Corporations big and bad, freedom good"). Among the more haunting ideas the film touches on is that it may be truly too late to alter the system before it absorbs and alters us, and that the only way out may be total disconnection(death). Perhaps people could not handle infinite choices and directions they could go in... One also gets the idea that the system has been running on autopilot for too long, with truly nobody at the top; and that even unrestricted thought may be purchased and co-opted by outsiders.
The impressive black and white cinematography hearkens back to the stark, arresting visuals of The Twilight Zone. The droning, eerie sound design is also a standout; when one doesn't have the budget to truly depict a megalopolis or a spaceship crash, one falls back on their strengths and Hennard manages to use his visual design and soundscape to fool us into thinking we've seen something with a much grander budget than there is. Crossing the look and pace of Eraserhead with a Philip K Dick story, it's a sci-fi parable told as a bizarre dream, through a mellowed pace and symbolic layers of imagery. It may seem pretentious to or throw off casual viewers, but those who can unplug themselves from the machine for a brief period will find plenty to chew on. One of the better-acted indie films I've seen, Sean Allen and Mylinda Wenz keep us hooked, ditto the supporting cast.
Review by hauntedwoods from the Internet Movie Database.