Don’t Come Back from the Moon premiers on January 18th at select theaters including LA’s theaters. This movie starring James Franco, and Rashida Jones deals with the emotional damage that fathers leave behind after abandoning their families in a remote California desert town. James Franco originally brought the idea to director Bruce Thierry Cheung while they were working on another project together in Mississippi. The film is based on the book by Dean Bakopoulos titled “Don’t come back from the moon.” In order to bring the story to life location and visual scenery were very important to the crew. The film’s cinematography captures the desert scenery with dramatic shots of the harsh but beautiful landscape. It reflects the beauty and harsh reality of life in the small town after the factory that employed most of the men shuts down and the place turns into more of a ghost town. One of the main characters is a boy whose father abandons him and his older brother narrates life in the desert from the beginning of the movie giving the viewer a unique perspective on the situation from a young boy’s eyes. He says, “after all the men left, the boys became men.” One by one, every father in the town leaves, and after a while the boys in the town coin the phrase “going to the moon” to describe their fathers’ abandonment. The film will take you on an emotional ride through the lives of teenagers growing up without fathers and shows the odd paradoxes that come up when they are forced to grow up before they’re ready. One minute the kids will be sword fighting in the dust, the next they’re taking care of their moms and siblings. There is also a little bit of romance throughout the film as the main character Mickey and the girl next door Tanya try to navigate growing up. They approach romance with a cautious practicality but in the end there is a surprise twist that will leave you questioning several things in the film. In one emotional scene Mickey finally tires of living in the state of limbo the town seems to be caught in waiting for his father and the other men to return. He starts gutting his house instead of keeping it how his father left it and throws all the memories he can find of his dad away.
The scenery in the film is really part of the story as much as the characters. Cheung says he fell in love with the town of Bombay beach where the film is set and shared, “Salton Sea also has the most amazing sunsets. Jaeh (the cinematographer) and I decide to film as much as possible during magic hour.” The film is mostly full of scenes taking place at sunset with only a few scenes in the harsh desert sunlight throughout the movie. The director decided he wanted to work with locals from the town in the film because each of them had interesting stories of their own. He said, “We shot the film for 17 days in Bombay Beach. We cast the film with a lot of non-actors and locals who live in the area. I try to do as much improvisation as possible to find spontaneous real behavior.” And shared stories of the locals he met during the project including Shirley, who used to be a hitchhiker and Paul Anthony who lives in a school bus and drives a 1962 muscle car.
This film also won several awards including the Winner – Special Jury Award in Directing, Los Angeles Film Festival, Winner – James Lyons Award for Best Editing, Woodstock Film Festival, Winner – Special Mention for Best Feature, Woodstock Film Festival, Winner – Best Narrative Feature, Southampton Film Festival, Winner – Best Cinematography, Southampton Film Festival. It will definitely play at your emotions and is definitely an interesting project that incorporates the real people of the town into a raw and relatable story. You will not want to miss the special premier if you are in LA this weekend!