leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
Spare and harshly photographed, Rosemary Rodriguez's gritty drama about two young women dealing with drug addiction in Manhattan's East Village showcases a phenomenal performance by lead Ana Reeder. Suburban refugee Alix (Reeder) lives with her musician boyfriend, Mark (Christopher Kadish), until they have a fight about her drug use and he throws her out, breaking her wrist in the process. Alix continues to rattle around the neighborhood, smoking in crack houses, doing heroin with friends and shoplifting items she can sell through the various hustlers she knows. The one thing she won't do is turn tricks, even though strung-out streetwalker Lisa (Susan O'Connor) has a client who's expressed interest in meeting Alix. Bad though the situation is, it gets worse: Alix and Mark's brief reconciliation ends abruptly when she ODs in his apartment. He panics and drags her out onto the stairs, where she's found by their neighbor, Digna (Michael Hyatt). A rising photographer working on a psychologically draining photo essay of neighborhood addicts — she even has a couple of shots of Alix playing with a friend's child — Digna calls an ambulance and, when Alix refuses hospital care, allows her to sleep it off on the couch. Having been a junkie herself, Digna can't bring herself to abandon Alix to the streets. Digna hopes her support might inspire Alix to get clean, but Alix resents being a fixer-upper project. And Digna herself is more vulnerable than she appears; the prospect of professional success and its concomitant pressures rattles her more than she'd like to admit. Her boyfriend, Anthony (Nestor Rodriguez), sees that Alix is exactly what Digna doesn't need when she's under the kind of stress that makes the illusion of shelter provided by drugs seem so alluring. But Digna doesn't, any more than she takes Alix's resentment seriously. Alix's eventual, inevitable relapse has life-changing repercussions for both women. The polar opposite of Darren Aronofsky's preachy, addictively stylish REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2000), Rodriguez's film captures the grinding routine of street-level drug use with numbing precision. It also evokes a suffocating sense that, for someone trying to kick a habit, drugs and drug talk are so pervasive that there's no respite from temptation. The story is predictable, but Reeder's performance is painfully convincing and the East Village locations so uniformly grimy that they all but weep despair.