Disney World: Coordinates: 28.385233 degrees north, 81.563874 degrees west

The Walt Disney World Resort is an entertainment complex in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, Florida, near Orlando and Kissimmee. Opened on Oct. 1, 1971, the resort is owned and operated by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, a division of The Walt Disney Company.

Director Sean Baker’s (“Tangerine”) “Florida Project” is set in the above coordinates within spitting distance of Disney World, Orlando Florida’s sprawling contribution to America’s road culture. Here, a bevy of dumpsters with beds is surrounded by swamp weeds and an assortment of cheap bed bug- and mold-soaked motels.

Welcome to “The Magic Castle,” a tossed together, purple stucco motel managed by Bobby, (Willem Dafoe) a well meaning ex-something: sailor, defrocked priest? It’s hard to tell. No explanation is given. But his story is the one that should be enlarged.

Bobby does have a genuine heart of gold plate. He looks after, as patiently as he can, the flock of kids who belong to the inhabitants, who, from their lawn chairs on the balconies and poolside, can see “Better,” but it’s too far out of reach.

The film focuses on single-mom Halley, (a very good Bria Vinaite) barely out of her late teens, who has a love child named Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) from someone in the past who doesn’t even rate a photo on the fridge.

They live on the edge of total disaster, moved, by Bobby, from room to room to avoid permanent residency.

Moonee, her spunky, already street-smart child is an annoying, hyper kinetic 6 year old who, on summer vacation, runs the hot asphalt all day, from motel to motel to surrounding swampland with her tiny trio of motel kids.

They trash deserted buildings, even setting fire to one, and having learned the art of mendacity con tourists out of money for ice cream.

Moonee, the street wisest of them, is their pack leader. We see them constantly on the edge of traffic death, abduction or molestation. Thankfully, nothing ever really happens to them, leaving them to spend most of the film standing on their balconies, annoying visitors and covering the parked cars with spit.

The rest of each of their days, they sit in the shade of local stores or wander in the tall grass of the surrounding swampland, gazing at cows.

Mama Halley, in her one pair of frayed cut offs and tank top, is a walking billboard of tattoos, multi-colored hair and boxes of cheap silver spikes protruding from her body parts, and that, we’re told, is the real Vinaite, which doesn’t bode well for a long range career in film.

In Halley, there may be some spark of talent, but in the shape of something so bad, so mad and dangerous to know, no one will ever want to get close enough to nurture it.

Halley makes the rent by trotting Moonee around to the parking lots of better hotels and selling cheap bottles of perfume to tourists. But it’s soon clear that most of her money is made sharing her bed with strange men, while Moonee is locked in the bathtub with stolen rubber toys. Are we having fun yet?

Of course, we know from scene one that no good can come of this for her, Moonee or anyone else in this bleak dumpster wasteland.

It’s obvious that sooner or later family services and the police will arrive to intervene, but not soon enough.

The last scene has been described by one critic as “one that will break your heart in two.” There were one or two moments that touched me, but at the end, my heart stayed intact.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and film actor.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.