There’s a difference between being asked to feel an emotion and being manipulated into it, and it’s hard for a film of this nature to not manipulate.
Consider the setup – Dorrie, a ten-year-old girl, is being escorted home by a police officer. We soon come to find out that she has run away from her grandmother’s house, which is where she lives. Why she ran away is left unanswered, so I’ll just presume it’s due to emotional troubles and move on.
Dorrie lives with her grandmother, who has been taking care of her for a while now. Her mother isn’t around, a victim of drugs or perhaps alcohol, another fact that the film leaves open to interpretation.
What’s important, however, is that Dorrie’s mother is coming for a visit for the first time in many months.
Mom shows up, and talks to grandma, and says that she’s been clean for two weeks. She’s going to try to get a place to live and a job, and get back on her feet. Grandma doesn’t believe her, offering her a drink, telling her there’s no money and no jewelry in the house, and in general inferring that she doesn’t trust mom at all.
I recognize that this is, at best, a terribly convoluted telling of what is, truly, a whisper of a plot. I suspect this is because ultimately, the plot isn’t the point of this film.
No, this isn’t a film about story, it’s a film about three women, all mentally fragile, all incapable of helping each other heal. It’s a film about growing up, or at least gaining a certain amount of maturity.
Grandma’s been hurt by men – he husband left her right after the birth of her daughter. Now her daughter has in turn taken her money and her love and vanished with it. She’s long past believing her daughter can change, if she ever believed it at all. And for one reason or another her granddaughter keeps running away from her.
Mom’s been hurt too, but it’s unclear by whom. No mention is made of Dorrie’s father, or when or how mom started down a path that would lead to her thinking that two weeks sober is a great accomplishment. One suspects that she has, more than anyone else, damaged herself.
And then there’s Dorrie. Incapable, perhaps unwilling, to deal with anyone, her only lessons in life are bitter sayings doled out by her grandmother, and the infrequent love of a mother too seldom around to teach her how to deal with life – especially since her mother doesn’t have her own act together.
In the end, it’s fate, or perhaps divine intervention that grants all of these women the push they need to move on. That they moved on is inevitable, and how they move on is unexpected, to be sure.
Unfortunately, while how they move on is both symbolic and surprising, it is also where the film slides off the rails. In particular, Dorrie’s reaction to what happens pushes this film from drama into melodrama, causing me to question whether she should be out walking the streets without first undergoing some intense psychotherapy.
This film takes a lot of obvious hot-button topics (drug addiction, family, abandonment, childhood, loneliness) and tries very hard to share them without force-feeding. While it doesn’t succeed completely, its goals are noble, and its ending (particularly the closing line) is subtly effective.