A harrowing and bleak tale of love flourishing from the grip of drug abuse.
Director Debra Granik helmed this tough, hard hitting and documentary style feature in 2005, a harrowing story of Irene, poor, a mother of two boys and addicted to cocaine.
Irene is constantly struggling to keep her job and weld her family together but things are going badly and the family are starting to fall apart. She meets a guy called Bob and is instantly attracted to him but doesn’t follow up on her feelings. After trying to spend one of her children’s birthday money on drugs, she checks herself in at a rehab clinic where she again meets Bob, a nurse and the relationship starts to blossom. But is she going to be able to cope with staying clean?
Things become more complicated when Bob, a former user, relapses back into his heroin habit and though Irene loves him, she now has some very tough decisions to make. Unfortunately, she ends up joining in with his addiction and it seems like a “happily ever after” ending is not on the agenda.
Vera Farmiga is stunning as Irene, producing an incredibly naturalistic performance and Hugh Dillon is equally impressive as Bob. The movie is entirely a character piece revolving around these two and Irene’s own family. Debra Granik’s style is for cinema verite, giving the piece a sparse, realistic, documentary feel, prefect for the subject matter which is at times very dark and harrowing. It’s a very non judgemental piece, illuminating the human frailties and difficulties that everyone faces, especially those affected by drug use.
The cinematography works hand in hand with the direction, giving a uniformly blue/grey colour palette which highlights the winterNew Yorkscenery, chilly and chilling at the same time, strangely impersonal. There’s a lot of subtext in some of the shots chosen, lingering views of piles of rubbish, a clear comment on consumerism and like all the best cinema it raises questions which linger long after the movie has finished. It is uncomfortable but compelling viewing, sparse on the laughs but high on impact. A must see.