“First there was darkness. Then the lights arrived…”
…There’s a certain darkness to growing up. It isn’t just the devastation of innocence, but a confusing period in which our mind is clouded and lacking understanding of the world around us. The more we learn, the more light we see, even if there are terrible truths revealed in the light. In that sense, director Igor Legarreta’s All the Moons is one of the most beautiful vampire coming of age stories I have ever seen.
Written by Legarreta and Jon Sagala, All the Moons is set during the late 19th century towards the end of the third Carlist war, when young orphan Amaia (Haizea Carneros with an incredibly touching performance) is crushed under a pile of rubble after a bomb. Near death, Amaia is saved by a wandering vampire with a bite, or a “kiss”, as she puts it. But before Amaia can grow to understand her vampirism, she is separated from the other vamps, and finds herself lost in a world that doesn’t understand her just as much as she doesn’t understand herself.
Have the tissues ready, because All the Moons is a tearjerker. A gorgeous one, at that.
All the Moons carries a sense of magic with it from the beginning. It’s a vampire fairytale that isn’t for kids, but is presented with a childish wonder. Well-crafted sets such as a cave covered in Amaia’s drawings of moons, and composer Pascal Gaigne’s simply enchanting score lure the audience into a world that feels as real as ours, but where something magical can happen at any moment. After all, we are looking at everything through Amaia’s frightened but curious eyes, and with her newfound vampirism, she might as well be born again. Think of Brad Pitt’s reaction to hearing the night for the first time in Interview with the Vampire. Take that moment and expand it out over two hours, and that’s the vibe of All the Moons.
This is a painful movie on every level, but with a poetic nature that finds the heart in the most awful of moments. Which there are plenty of.
Coming of age stories are never easy. They are full of devastation, heartache, frustration…they are Kirsten Dunst screaming as a young vampire in Interview with the Vampire. All the Moons is up there with the most poignant of them. We follow Amaia as she learns of the brutality of life—at one point viciously beating a ferret to death for food—and discovers herself, much of it painful, like finding out why the giver of her gift promised her she would see “all the moons there are” but not the sun. Her journey eventually takes her to a small village, where she meets Candido (Josean Bengoetxea in a brilliant performance), another lonely and pained soul, and through her relationship with him as well as others, begins to question what she is: an angel, or a demon?
Depends on who you ask.
Being a female-driven coming of age flick, there’s a heavy theme of male fear and suppression. One male vampire, when first introduced to Amaia, mentions that “girls are dangerous”, while Candido’s village priest is suspicious of Amaia and seeks to control her. We get the other side of that as well though, as Amaia has her own sweet My Girl side-story, leading to a stunning moment with bees that just has to be a homage. To a degree, All the Moons does for vampires what Ginger Snaps did for werewolves in connecting Amaia’s vampirism to her growing maturity. Only this is not nearly the horrific experience that Ginger Snaps is.
All the Moons aims to move, not scare. There are a few savage moments, and one scene which is so horrific it will be burned into my mind for weeks, but this isn’t the bloodthirsty vampire tale that its predecessors are. In fact, other than the small ways which it plays into her existence, Amaia’s vampirism is secondary to the primary premise of just learning what it means to be alive.
Cinematographer Imanol Nabea’s imagery accentuates the splendor of Amaia’s simple but difficult journey. For every dead thing or bit of darkness she encounters, there is lush greenery or a warmth to the lighting that keeps the film from ever feeling too dark. Grim, sure, but not hopeless. Much of that comes from the pure humanity which Amaia and Candido’s beautiful relationship brings to the table. All the Moons is Interview with a Vampire meets Let the Right One In, but without the hopelessness of the former or the brutality of the latter. Those expecting to rave underneath a downpour of blood in this film like the vamps in Blade will be sorely disappointed. All the Moons is emotionally biting, but rarely bares its fangs.
A film about the loneliness of growing up, All the Moons is a beautiful vampire fantasy that sinks its teeth into the soul. Moving, tragic and full of enchantment, it isn’t a film for anyone seeking a traditional vampire film, but for those wanting a unique perspective on the monster through the eyes of a little girl, then look to All the Moons.
All the Moons is now on Shudder.
By Matt Konopka