YOU are never quite sure from The Florida Project's opening whether you are watching a fly-on-the-wall documentary, reality show or an improvised screenplay.

But at the end of the utterly compelling two hours you will have seen an extraordinary piece of film-making with a gritty social story to tell – one of a broken American dream.

There is light and shade in every scene and plenty of humour amid a storyline that is far more powerful than any modern day soap opera.

Director Sam Baker's second production certainly ensured that the cinema audience I attended it with at a preview screening were left speechless as they left the cinema.

Why? Because it is a unique piece of cinematic story telling that defies pigeon-holing.

It has already triumphed with critics for its originality at film festivals such as Cannes.

There are hints of other stand-out films such as Little Miss Sunshine and Slumdog Millionaire.

The acting is here using many unknowns is so natural and raw.

And the cast features some real life Florida residents, talented acting newcomers, young stars-in-the-making and a formidable Hollywood A-lister.

The location is the Magic Castle motel where residents out stay their 

welcome trying to pay their daily rent of 35 dollars.

Up the road is Disney World – a kingdom away ... in more ways than one.

This down-to-earth story is centered on Halley a single mum and her daughter Moonie.

Halley is played by Bria Vinaite who was discovered on Instagram by the director.

The heavily-tattooed in real life Bria turns in a stunning performance as the tough but also caring woman forced to illegally flogging perfume outside the luxury hotels and making ends meet with prostitution.

Brooklyn Prince plays Moonee her six-year-old, precocious daughter an actress destined for truly great things. A name to look out for.

We see the world through her eyes and that of her two pals whose laughter provides one of the many highlights of this film with its smatterings of foul language.

They spend the hot days cadging ice cream, swimming, and exploring the gaudy-painted environment.

And they also try their hands at arson.

The children use the surroundings as their playground. When they see a rainbow their smiles illuminate the screen. Rainbows are free...

Sadly, the authorities are tipped off abut Halley’s lifestyle and they want Moonee to be taken into care. Mum and daughter won’t give up without a fight.

There is an ending that will tug at the heart strings.

Willem Dafoe is the A-lister playing Bobby the Motel manager who has to answer to his corporate boss while still caring for his residents who are quite simply impoverished. They may be poor but are rich in self- preservation.

Bobby seems hard on the surface but he has a big heart – a series of confrontation scenes confirm this.

In fact this film has a huge heart. The characters may not have been given any of life’s fairy dust but they are working class survivors who display a tough love.

The low budget adds to the realism. The director is a fan of I Phones and indeed one scene is captured that way.

The success of any film is that you care about the characters. At the end of the day this is a film about childhood and parents out of their depth.

Florida Project creates a different kind of sunshine.

Certificate 15

Opens on Friday.