To Leslie (2022)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Finding the stories is the easy part. The difficult thing is to tell them in such a way that they become relevant. Michael Morris’s debut feature To Leslie (2022) does just the latter. The family drama of his story transcends by the way it is told and by the precision with which the narrative rhythm is carried out. When we approach the film, we can feel that what it is going to tell us is too familiar, that there is room to fall into the trite, but Morris’s hand is firm, and he relies on a magnificent cast to make his bet a winner.

The strength that the protagonists of To Leslie impregnate their characters may mean that their script is not given the necessary merit. Ryan Binaco had just written a science fiction movie before showing us this intimate and human drama. Inspired by true events, Binaco conceives the world of Leslie (Andrea Riseborough), a young mother in a Texas town who, after winning a lottery prize, finds herself penniless and plunged into a terrible addiction to drugs and alcohol. Through Leslie’s eyes, this story of redemption is told of a woman who seeks to escape her demons and mend her relationship with her son.

Small town, big hell

The only thing that outweighs Leslie’s addiction is her past in the small town that was once her home. The ephemeral glory of that award became her chimera, those photos that introduce us to the story during the opening titles tell us about those brief moments of happiness of our Leslie. Now she is almost a specter that wanders the streets about to meet her end. Although director Michel Morris always tries to tell the story from Leslie’s perspective, there are well-defined points of support. His son James (Owen Teague) is the first axis that the director uses to move the story to place us at the center of the conflict. Then we’ll have Dutch (Stephen Root) and Nancy (Allison Janney) as the forces that drag Leslie to confront her past.

Another resource that Morris uses very well is the parallels between the situation of Leslie and the decadent town. Also, the fact of placing protagonist together with two other beings who are also socially isolated in the figures of Sweeney (Marc Maron) and Royal (Andre Royo). Only there can Leslie begin the path of salvation.

To Leslie vibrates to the rhythm of a fabulous Andrea Riseborough, her acting force is overwhelming and is enough fuel to propel this film from start to finish. Larkin Spike’s cinematography, hailing from the world of television and music videos, does Riseborough’s effort a great service and portrays her with dignity even in the most depressing moments. The close-ups are impressive and make it worth every second that we have that Leslie speaking to our souls from her silence.

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