All the Moons is a gorgeous, sorrowful, and achingly sensitive fairy tale.
Though it at first looks like a typical, if particularly handsome, period vampire film, Igor Legarreta’s All the Moons soon distinguishes itself as something less familiar: not a horror movie so much as a coming of age(lessness) fairy tale that seriously considers the existential dilemma inherent in the fantasy. Towards the end of the Third Carlist War in 1876, an orphan girl (Haizea Carneros) is saved from certain death by a cloaked woman who turns her into a vampire. That word is never uttered here or anywhere else, but the thirst for blood and aversion to the sun are accounted for: the vampire clan the girl falls in with stalks the remains of battlegrounds like vultures at night and hides from the sun during the day. But soon the girl is separated from her found family and presumed dead in the sunlight.
Ten years later, the girl develops immunity to the sun and is taken in by the widower Candido, whose biological daughter died some years before. The father-daughter-like relationship that forms between the two characters becomes the tender core of the film, the village becoming increasingly fearful of the girl — whom the man names Amaia, perhaps after his biological daughter — while Candido only becomes more protective. Unlike the child vampires of Interview with the Vampire or Let the Right One In, Amaia is an uncomplicated moral innocent, a demon by circumstance but not by action, who hurts no one save a neighbor’s chickens or a few wild animals.
What All the Moons is about then is not the familiar push-pull between sympathy and revulsion that informs so much vampire media, but about being stuck in time, a child forever. To Candido, Amaia is a gift, a girl permanently at the age of his departed daughter, allowing him a chance at a fatherhood free of pain. His love is returned, but Amaia is cursed to watch him — and everyone else — grow old. It’s a sorrowful movie about how seeing “all the moons” there ever will be drains the beauty out of each night’s sky and how eternal life becomes a deadening slog, especially in a world set upon by cycles of war and destruction. It’s telling, then, that the film is bookended by wars, opening with the end of the Third Carlist War and ending with the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, a title card reading 1936 superimposed over the face of a girl who has looked the same for 60 years hitting like a freight train. The setting and subject of Legarreta’s film recall Guillermo Del Toro but stripped of his phantasmagorical fascination and doubling down on achingly sensitive storytelling. The gorgeous final stretch of All the Moons sticks the landing, offering a profound moment of parental sacrifice and an unexpected ray of hope for Amaia.
You can currently stream Igor Legarreta’s All the Moons on Shudder.
Originally published as part of Fantasia Fest 2021 — Dispatch 5.