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WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Julia (Swinton) is an alcoholic loser of a party girl who can’t hold down even the most menial of jobs, despite the support of her one true friend, mentor and former AA sponsor Mitch (Rubinek).
When a neighbour who attends her AA meetings asks for her help in taking back her son from her former partner – who happens to be the son of a wealthy businessman – Julia initially goes along with the plan, before taking it a step further.
She decides to kidnap the boy and hold him for a big ransom from the businessman.
In time-honoured fashion, things don’t go to plan, as she finds herself trying to hide the boy in motel rooms or in the boot of her carand ends up fleeing to Mexico and getting caught up with criminal gangs who kidnap the boy from her for ransom.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

There are at least two separate films here, tied together rather inelegantly.
What begins as a very interesting character drama, with a lot of potential to explore these wounded people, spins off into a crime caper movie, with a stereotypical hero-in-over-her-head.
Most of the characters I’d been keen to follow from the first few scenes are completely forgotten, as Julia’s spree spirals out of control, with more and more of the standard low-life bad guys filling the antagonist role.
The film ends up following a well-worn formulaic path, with too much of the plot unfolding through luck or convenience.
The photography of the desert wastelands around the Mexican border is impressive and the Oscar-winning Swinton gives another powerhouse performance, essential since pretty much everyone else on screen might as well not be there, for all the acting they have to do, but it’s not really clear whether Julia develops or grows as a character, which means that she doesn’t take us on an emotionally satisfying journey.
Kidnapping the son of a fellow alcoholic is perhaps an odd way for one of the most irresponsible characters in modern cinema to learn about responsibility – for one of the most selfish characters in modern cinema to discover her maternal instincts – but ultimately, the film is just too long and confused.
The film apparently ran into budget problems – it’s a shame this didn’t happen before they’d filmed far too much, rather than before they sat down to edit out what they didn’t need.

Opens nationwide on 5th December 2008

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