I saw this film by Justin Hennard at the 2004 Fearless Tales Genre Fest in San Francisco and it simply blew me away! 'Moonlight by the Sea' is a tale of a man's battle within himself and the company that owns him. Set in the near future, one conglomerate company - The Corporation, now owns the world. Albion Moonlight (Sean Allen), is The Corporation's top salesman and foot soldier, who while traveling on an urgent and important mission, crashes his spaceship onto a barren planet with no chance of rescue, communication or possibility of completing that 'big deal.' Meanwhile back on earth, everyone is linked to The Corporation either by employment or the mass consumerism of its mind-altering, addictive products. This is 'Big Brother' on a more logical scale - and eerily - it doesn't appear so far off from the distant future when reviewing the country's status today. Albion, now free of the Corporation's wiring and mechanized thought-reading equipments that have been part of his being for most of his adult life, is, for the first time, alone. His journey through the dry and desolate landscape puts his 'own' mind into overdrive. Have the voices of the Corporation finally stopped? Does he now have free thought and a chance to escape? Unfortunately 'no.' With all this 'free time' on his hands and the fear that he will eventually be rescued and returned to 'active' duty, he obsesses on how to complete his mission. So 'new' is free thought and privacy to him, that he conjures up 2 beings to walk his journey with him; there is Stranger, played by Kingsley Martin, who expertly portrays the side of Albion's brain that is 'all Corporation'. When Albion lets his thoughts wander to the other side of his brain and the prospective of a real life, Stranger begins to short circuit! Albion leaves Stranger behind with the ship to pursue other avenues of thought and escape. His childhood, a loving mother, a once-loving wife, and happy days - all flood back to him. He is allowed free thought and for once, no one can hear it! Enter Nomman, played by Prince Camp. Nomman is the human side of Albion's brain, slowly and patiently trying to reopen the dried riverbeds of Albion's mind, which are much like the landscape they are traveling together.
As we journey through Albion's complex and resigned existence, the film is intercut with high-tech scenes from Corporation Headquarters and our introduction to Gwen Klaus, played by the gorgeous and capable Mylinda Wenz. She is charge of all product sales and the 'correct' thought patterns of her drone workers. She is thrown off schedule by Albion's disappearance and the corporation demands answers and solutions. The Corporation products, which are denied use by any corporation member, are also becoming part of Gwen's closet addiction. She enlists the aid of Capt. Santop (Gary Peters) to assist her, and in an unusual twist of subliminal romance, he covers for her and accepts her strict and clinical abuse, even after discovering her illegal usage. For more storyline, you simply have to get your hands on a copy of this great film. MOONLIGHT BY THE SEA is not your average, run of the mill, sci-fi romp. You're really going to have to put your thinking cap on kids and start using a little gray matter for this one! Justin Hennard has brilliantly created a future world and a hopeless existence for all living under the dictatorship of one singular mindset. He opens the film within the dark and claustrophobic hull of Albion's small ship, and with an ever-widening pinhole of light, he slowly opens the frame to reveal a constricted world.
Shot in lush black & white - a wonderful switch from the computerized C.G.I. fare of today - Hennard's photography grows comparison to the high-art camera work of 90' icons Bruce Weber and the late Herb Ritts. His streamlined sets, lighting, and total attention to detail and continuity, make for very sophisticated viewing. It took me to a far away place - I never once looked at a shot and thought - 'Oh, I know where that is!' Moonlight's look and expression reminded me much of those great French filmmakers from the 1960's. Quite impressive from a new filmmaker who is still very young - but only in years! An art film? Yes. An allegory to today's consumerism and greed? Absolutely!
There isn't a lot of action, just human condition. I think Ray Bradbury and Rod Serling would cheer at Justin Hennard and Jonathan Ackley's intelligent screenplay. I found 'Moonlight' very similar to one of my favorite films; Stanley Kramer's 1959 film of Nevil Shute's WW III epic, On The Beach, which placed Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner in a tale of apocalyptic proportions and relied solely on their 'humanness' as a storyline - and not millions of dollars of special effects.
Some may think MOONLIGHT BY THE SEA a bit highbrow and surreal, but maybe its just time for all of us to start using that part of our brain not controlled by the mass media and look a bit deeper as well. I'm so happy to see it finally getting distribution! * * * *