“Walk four hundred yards due north from your house to the dirt path which has not got any name on it. Turn right and follow to the end. I will meet you in the meadow.”
How far would you go to be with the one you love? For two misfit 12 year-old kids Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), who happen to cross paths on New Penzance Island, they’re not only willing to trek miles through the forests and canoe through the New England waters, but abandon everything in their lives—Suzy’s somewhat dysfunctional family, Sam’s boyscout troop at Camp Ivanhoe—all for the sake of each other.
Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom takes us back to 1965, where you have these two lovers amid some troublesome life scenarios: Sam, an orphan and outcast who isn’t favored much by his fellow troop mates (who is also a watercolorist and a supreme camper), and Suzy, a rebel at best—-a reader, a dreamer—stuck in the confines of her parents’ home with her three younger brothers. The two first meet when Sam sneaks into the girls’ dressing room during a church play, where Suzy is costumed as a raven among three other birds. Sam singles her out, asking, “what kind of bird are you?” Suzy, thrown off a bit, is unaware of his flirting intentions until her friend insists he likes her. The two then keep in contact via letters, and eventually agree to running away to be together forever. Of course, as whimsical as it sounds, the story is undeniably adorable with the classic nostalgia of youth that appears throughout a lot of past Anderson movies.
And Anderson definitely kept this in mind while making Moonrise Kingdom. In an interview with Popsugar, he said he “wanted to try to recreate the feeling of falling in love for the first time, and these kids they take it very, very seriously and they’re bold about it; they act it out,” and “one of the inspirations is that there’s an island that’s off the coast of Massachusetts, it’s called Naushon. Naushon is a place that hasn’t changed at all, and when you go there it’s like your stepping back in time. And I think that’s why [Moonrise Kingdom] is set in the not so distant past, but there are few places like this; there are almost no places like this.”
But Sam and Suzy’s journey wouldn’t be anything without everyone else trying to stop them: Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), local police officer Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), and the entire Camp Ivanhoe troop, all on the hunt for these two lovers, doing everything they can to bring them back—resulting in a few casualties along the way.
Overall Moonrise Kingdom is a magical love story that becomes more and more believable as the story goes on. And who knows, Sam and Suzy might even bring you face to face with your own personal longings for your first love, had you ran away and pitched camp to spend a few nights together.