An absolutely heartbreaking film that is hard to watch at times. A gritty and realistic look at the life of the people we try to avoid making eye contact. Director Sean Baker continues to subvert narrative expectations by shining a light in the places of society that don’t get their proper due.
Willem Dafoe gives a different kind of performance then we are used to seeing, with Bakers unique voice and realistic settings, Dafoe is able to shine a little bit brighter. Newcomer Brooklyn Prince nails the precociousness of a child that’s left to fend for herself in a big world. The relationship between Prince and her mother, Bria Vinaite, is heartbreaking and all too familiar.
Watching a young single mother struggle as she tries to provide for her daughter is a very intimate experience and Baker’s filmmaking process magnifies everything. With a cast largely made up of unknown actors there is definitely a documentary feel to what you are watching. The brilliance is putting the unknowns in starring roles and using the likes of Dafoe, Caleb Landry Jones, and Macon Blair to boost their performances.
The “upstairs/downstairs” dynamic of the struggling young family living in the shadow of the decadence of Disney’s disposable income drives home the income inequality that is plaguing the country. This film has a lot to say and coming from young Brooklynn Prince, it just might be heard.
4 out of 5