Maggie Gyllenhaal. Giancarlo Esposito. Writer-director, Laurie Collyer.
This is a tour-de-force performance for Maggie Gyllenhal. If it hadn’t been such a dark subject matter, it would have been more widely acclaimed, I’m sure. She plays a just-out-of-prison drug addict who tries to go straight, get and hold a job, and re-connect with her young daughter who has been cared for by her brother’s family, all the while fencing with her parole officer (Esposito). We are supposed to understand her confusion, immaturity and weakness, rather than blame her, and we do. It’s an oft-told story, quite similar to Kiera Knightley’s role in Pure (2002), although this manages to achieve a more realistic, downbeat ending. Gyllenhaal is utterly compelling as an actor, a real master at only 30 years old. However, it is a tired old story with nothing new to add. I give it an A only because of Gyllenhaal’s virtuoso performance.