Box of Moonlight

Director: Tom DiCillo
Screenwriters: Tom DiCillo

Institute History

  • 1997 Sundance Film Festival


Tom DiCillo, who brought us Johnny Suede and Living in Oblivion (winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 1995 film festival), returns to Sundance with Box of Moonlight. Once again he infuses a story with his own brand of style and insight. In this case it is the story of Al Fountain, a good man, a hard worker, your average Joe, as they say. Al is a man with problems, but not the kind that make the six o’clock news. He has alienated himself from his employees and is out of sync with his family. When hallucinations start to plague him, like water flowing backward and children riding bicycles in reverse, he embarks on a quest to find an old childhood vacation haunt. Al is lost in America, first figuratively, then literally.

DiCillo’s trip of self-realization has a nostalgic fairy-tale quality. The eclectic score, combined with the glistening cinematography by Paul Ryan,adds to the liberating effect of the film. But Box of Moonlight’s greatest power rests in its cast of characters, and they are all vibrantly portrayed. John Turturro is wonderfully complex as Al. He evokes both empathy and humor as he struggles to do the one thing he knows best: keep under control. In a deeper sense, he becomes a metaphor for a country that has lost its innocence, embodying the America that is feeling its own growing pains. Instead of mourning this loss, DiCillo takes us to a new place of understanding by arousing what may best be described as a longing for a new maturity.

In direct contrast is Sam Rockwell as Kid. Al happens on him, clad in a Davy Crockett costume and broken down by the side of the road. In his leather getup, living on his woodland homestead, he conjures up more of an image of Peter Pan than local rube, exuding enough boyish optimism to make even the most cynical viewer clap to save Tinkerbell . . . in this case believe that moonlight can be captured in a wooden box. The actual moonlight, whether real or not, is unimportant. What counts is whether or not we are willing to believe. Box of Moonlight is a magical film about the possibility, if not the necessity, of change.

— John Cooper

Screening Details

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