Leslie (Andrea Riseborough) lives in West Texas and is a single mother. Her life changes when she uses her son’s birthdate to enter the lottery and wins the jackpot. But, six years later, Leslie is kicked out of her apartment for failing to make payments. The money Leslie won from the lottery has been wholly thrown away, leaving her homeless and sleeping in local spots around the city. She soon contacts her only son, James (Owen Teague), who helps her with a room, a bed, and some food.
At first, Leslie can’t bring herself to explain to her son how she got to this point in her life, instead claiming that she wants to spend some time with him. James lays a few ground rules down with Leslie, who isn’t allowed to stay in the room provided permanently but can use it to find her feet. James also stresses that he doesn’t want her to drink alcohol anymore. This is a chance for Leslie to rebuild her entire world and reconnect with those she left heartbroken. The question is, can Leslie get her life together again, or will she choose the road which doesn’t have pleasing consequences?
To Leslie is best described as a heavy drama inspired by true events. Pacing for this film is relatively slow; however, thanks to many positive factors, the story is highly engaging, touching, heartfelt and, at various moments, gripping. If you have ever made a mistake in life or dealt with guilt and shame (and let’s face it, we all have), To Leslie is deeply relatable, even if the details and journey may differ. The storyline is filled with many unpredictable moments, and I found myself extremely curious to see if Leslie would manage to get her life in order or if she would continue to struggle.
Performances here are sensational. Actress Andrea Riseborough gives a compelling performance as Leslie. Her mannerisms, addictions, language and even how she walks around is a sight to see, helping us understand that Leslie has hit rock bottom. A side performance from Marc Maron as Sweeney, a man who gives unexpected kindness to Leslie, is also sweet here. Actress Allison Janney felt slightly underused here, but she does deliver a moment that stands out strongly and powerfully, which is welcoming and unforgettable.
The camera work and filming style wins praise from me. Everything on-screen is captured wonderfully, and I couldn’t help but appreciate some key moments throughout the film. One scene, particularly, sees Leslie sitting at a bar alone, listening to the words of a song by a man on stage. The camera slowly pans and zooms in closer and closer throughout this scene, capturing an intense moment of emotion, depression and sadness perfectly. Scenes like this stood out to me deeply, and I admired the heart-touching revelations that didn’t require speaking.
Overall, if you’ve ever made a mistake in life (let’s be honest, we’ve all been there), To Leslie is a relatable story, even if the journey may differ from yours. There’s so much goodness here, such as the leading performance from Andrea Riseborough, who gives something unexpected and new. The side cast also brings something solid and memorable, including Marc Maron. The camera work here is tremendous, and some scenes impacted me greatly, leaving me sincerely appreciating the visuals. With slow pacing and a story based on true events, I found everything engaging and unpredictable. It’s hard not to be invested and curious about how things will end for our leads. To Leslie (2022) is Available in Australian Cinemas from March 9th.