top of page

The Florida Project and The Physicality of Childhood

Last week I went to see Sean Baker's new movie The Florida Project starring Willem Defoe, Bria Vinaite, and Brooklynn Prince. It is quite a film and seems to link to a common thread in my blog of the difference between reality and fantasy. This is not a review of the film. Mark Kermode has written a good one if that is what you are looking for.


It reminded me of things. Of things I had long forgotten about my own experience of childhood. Much of Brooklynn Prince's friendships with her 6 year old peers in the movie are based, not so much in words but rather in doing, and not only doing things once, but over and over again.

Because I write about 'the body' I have spent a lot of time reading about it as well. I remember many years ago reading about why the changes in a girl's body are so hard to negotiate during puberty. I read all the normal and expected explanations, of hormones, culture and the shock of the new but this particular author (I have forgotten who it was. If you know please do tell me) spoke about the change from having a body that works and does things, hopscotch, climbs trees, burps, runs and is at the centre of the self, to a body which is suddenly starts smelling, growing and excreting in a different way from before. The author spoke about the loss of the doing body being replaced by a being body. A body which was more likely to have things done to it. The change of focus, for many, not all shifting from passivity to activity.

Taking her thoughts in a slightly different direction I want to think about the simple distinction of functionality. That is my phrase. What I saw in Brooklynn Prince's character Moonee is something I am uncertain urban, protected, technoligically attached children know about. I hope I am wrong. What I saw was the centrality of her experience of her body in her negotiation of the world. The slow and pleasurable sharing and the licking of melting ice-cream in a cone, the running, the jumping, the getting too hot and suddenly getting caught in the rain. Somehow how her body functioned and how she functioned were the same. It was not other, it was her. She knew it from the inside out. The outside in didn't really matter.

She took delight it in. In how her body felt and responded to outside and inside stimulti of food, weather and touch. Freud spoke about the repetition compulsion in relation to difficulties, but it is also about the healthy process of internalisation and body memory. It is fun. It is this quality of repetition that struck a long forgotten cord in me. The need to perform the same action over and over again. That sound of babies and toddlers as they call 'again', 'again' when bubbles are blown or they are tickled and sometimes in reverse. Recently I saw the total delight on a little boys face as he ran, a new skill, more like a fast stumble with a feather towards those he loved who melting into laughter at the impending tickle. Meanwhile his brother without yet having the word again in his vocabulary, although being his twin was kicking a ball through his father's legs again and again.

So many of the patients that I see have lost that knowledge of how their body works for them. The body is no longer experienced from the inside out as something that brings pleasure and mastery in and of the world. Instead the eyes gaze as though from outside and what critical eyes they are! A horribly high percentage of girl's don't go to school when they feel fat and if they do make it, they don't put up their hand in class the way they normally would.

We have to begin to think as Susie Orbach has done in her book Bodies and in the development of The Body Observational Disgnostic Interview (BODI) about how our body develops in the context of the bodies we are brought up with and come into contact with. Make sure your children move as much as they can and that you as an adult do too. In my view it helps. Also NEVER tell a child he or she is fat. Every bit of research suggests it will make them fatter and increase their level of self-hatred. I also know this is really hard. I will return to the BODI in a later blog.


bottom of page