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To Leslie (2022)

It goes without saying these days that if Andrea Riseborough is on your cast list, it speaks volumes of the authenticity of your project. She is easily one of the most effective working actors of this day and age, bringing quality to anything she decides to become involved in.

And the same is true here, the story of a woman, Leslie, who wins $190,000 on the lottery, and within six years, has blown it all on booze and has nothing to show for it. When she is thrown out of her motel room for non-payment of rent, with nowhere else to turn, she goes to visit her son James (Owen Teague) whom she previously abandoned.

Michael Morris' first directorial feature is based on a true story. It's not even that surprising or unusual. You would need more hands to count the number of times it happens on just your own fingers. The morality tale of winning big without being suitably prepared for good fortune is old and cautionary.

"Are you sure this is where you want to be?"

Riseborough's performance as a lower-class Texan alcoholic that's evidently past her prime is excellent and worthy of any plaudits inevitably coming her way. Based on writer Bianco's own mother, it should come as no surprise that this is very, very real, uncompromising and tragic. Leslie is not fatalistic, however, and neither is the story. Miraculously, when looking for her missing bag, she is offered a job by the local Motel Manager (Marc Maron), predominantly out of guilt for causing her to run away the night before, bagless.

After some hiccups, a valuable friendship is carefully curated between the two and life starts to look up, after so much pain and waste. But was it ever meant to last? Or is Leslie's self-destructive nature due to get the better of her again?

Gripping and gritty, with superb support from Maron and Alison Janney, this all too real tale will engage throughout. Recommended.

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