A Map of the Moon

Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez

Starring Mckenna Grace, Billy Barratt, Scott Mescudi

Released May 12th, 2023

Rated PG

Humans have lived on Earth’s moon for many years. Plans to fully colonize were set aside once a more habitable planet was found. This planet, Omega, isn’t in our galaxy, and so we’ve kept mining operations going on our moon to facilitate travel to this haven. A workplace accident claims the life of one of these miners, and that makes an orphan out of young Caleb (Isaiah Russell-Bailey). It is decided that Caleb be sent to Omega, which means leaving his friends and the only home he’s ever known, the moon. 

Before Caleb’s father passed away, he made his son promise him that one day he would venture out to a certain crater to find something that his mother had wanted him to see. Caleb’s friends, the outgoing Dylan (Billy Barratt), the lowkey Marcus (Thomas Boyce), and the hyper Borney (Orson Hong) resolve to help Caleb achieve this goal before he is sent away to a far-off planet in just a few days’ time. They recruit a recent arrival to the moon, a young girl named Addison (Mckenna Grace), to aid them in their journey.

Marcus must take pills on the regular for his enlarged heart, which may have been caused by his family living on the moon for generations. Marcus is forgetful about his pill schedule, so Borney keeps track for him. Borney is always excited, always talking, usually referencing some horrific cautionary tale his unseen older brother told him once upon a time. Is Borney this kid’s first or last name? Does he even have an older brother? Orson Hong is rather annoying as Borney, but I don’t place any blame on him since that’s how the role is written. Marcus is probably the most underdeveloped of the characters, but Thomas Boyce is able to give the part some nuance due to his understated performance. 

As the impetuous Dylan, Billy Barratt has arguably the showiest role and inarguably the best haircut. He’s got teen idol written all over him. Isaiah Russell-Bailey does a great job letting his performance as Caleb ground the proceedings, never letting you forget that the film is about loss, no matter the sci-fi bells and whistles. His father is played by Scott Mescudi, who is better known by the name of Kid Cudi. Mescudi only has a few scenes in the film, but they’re all handled very well, giving Caleb a guiding light that he follows throughout the movie. 

Mckenna Grace is an actress who has become known for playing the younger version of many iconic characters, including Sabrina Spellman, Daphne Blake, and Carol Danvers. I first saw her alongside Chris Evans in Gifted, but she really impressed me in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. She carried that entire movie like it was no heavier than a proton pack. Crater comes across as a transitory role for her. She’s fine as Earth girl Addison, but there’s not a lot to the part. I foresee her ageing into more demanding roles in the future. 

Crater is a coming-of-age story that plays well to the general anxiety of adolescence. The kids have an easy chemistry that helps sell some of the goofier aspects of the film, like easily stealing access codes and instantly knowing how to drive a lunar rover. The gang’s camaraderie is reminiscent of the kids in The Goonies or The Explorers, if those kids had been a tad more “in their feelings.” Generation Z’s penchant for emotional transparency is on full display here, as Crater has elements of an adventure film but is really more of a space age tween drama. 

I didn’t expect the film to be as thought-provoking (and anti-corporation) as it turned out to be. It features some interesting science fiction ideas regarding long-distance space travel and how extreme time dilation would affect individuals, families, and society at large. I watched the movie with my wife and our twelve-year-old son. My son said he enjoyed the film, but thought it was a sad story. He went on to say that the characters reminded him of some of his classmates.