Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5
USA, 1996. Out of Carolina Productions. Screenplay by Anne Meredith, based on the book by Dorothy Allison. Cinematography by Anthony B. Richmond. Produced by Amanda DiGiulio. Music by Van Dyke Parks. Production Design by Nelson Coates. Costume Design by Van Broughton Ramsey. Film Editing by Eva Gardos.
Anjelica Huston makes an incredible debut as director with this riveting drama. Based on Dorothy Allison’s novel, it concerns the harrowing experiences of a little girl (an excellent Jena Malone) who endures being sexually abused by her sadistic stepfather (Ron Eldard) without her mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) being aware of it. Assembling an impressive cast, which also includes a terrific supporting performance by Diana Scarwid (just look at her face when she sees the bruise on Malone’s body), this incredibly painful experience is one of the most honest films ever made on the subject of child abuse, and for that reason it is required viewing by even the most squeamish audiences.
Huston forces us to stop pretending it’s something that only happens in far away places and looks closely at the issue, making for a film that is politically satisfying as well as intellectually stimulating. At the same time, her steady hand as director serves the story and makes sure that we are constantly seeing the film through the eyes of the characters and not her own personal judgments.
Toronto International Film Festival: 1996