Though it addresses big themes — children’s exposure to violence; opioid addiction; single parenting — “Sadie” is at its heart an intimate story, about a mother and daughter and a man who seems to come between them. But its honesty and power makes it feel large. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
“Everybody’s got details,” says an old man in the locally filmed drama “Sadie,” whittling away at a stick. “You gotta know how to carve them.”
Luckily, Seattle-based writer/director Megan Griffiths (“The Night Stalker,” “Lucky Them,” “Eden”) knows exactly how to carve her characters — with the help of a skilled cast of actors. Though it addresses big themes — children’s exposure to violence; opioid addiction; single parenting — “Sadie” is at its heart an intimate story, about a mother and daughter and a man who seems to come between them. But its honesty and power makes it feel large; you live among these characters in their weary trailer park, aching for them.
Filmed in rain-soaked Everett and punctuated by the sound of a train whistle on its way to somewhere else, “Sadie” quickly introduces us to its title character (local actor Sophia Mitri Schloss, perfectly capturing the quicksilver ice of being 13) who lives with her mother, Rae (the always splendid Melanie Lynskey). Sadie idealizes her military father, who’s been overseas for years; the lonely Rae, who knows things about her marriage that her daughter doesn’t, is ready to move on. Along comes a stranger: Cyrus (John Gallagher Jr.), who attracts the eye of both Rae and her friend Carla (Danielle Brooks). Things get messy, and Sadie — her eyes narrowing as if they’re being sharpened to a point — thinks she knows how to solve the problem. But she’s 13, and of course she doesn’t.
Much of the pleasure of “Sadie” is watching its beautifully carved details: Lynskey’s soft, hopeful line readings, suggesting a woman who’s known disappointment and yet still believes something better might come along; Brooks’ way of hinting at a world of pain behind Carla’s sassy-best-friend persona; the tired browns and grays of the characters’ homes, where the air feels damply cold and water perpetually drips from the gutters. But it’s at its most mesmerizing when fixed on Schloss’ unblinking gaze; a child at war with forces — and consequences — that she can’t yet understand.
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★★★½ “Sadie,” with Sophia Mitri Schloss, Melanie Lynskey, John Gallagher Jr., Danielle Brooks, Tony Hale, Keith L. Williams. Written and directed by Megan Griffiths. 96 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains strong language and mature themes). Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday, Oct. 25. Griffiths will be present at the Oct. 19 and 20 screenings for a Q&A.