While Donald Trump’s rise to power can be attributed to many factors, it’s undeniable that the working-class, blue-collar heartlands of the United States of America had been ignored by Washington for decades. Indeed, they’re often stigmatised and labelled as ‘hillbillies’, uneducated or bigots by the New England political elite. Hollywood is especially complicit in stereotyping, as Hillbilly Elegy attests. To Leslie does a much better job at capturing the complexities.
Leslie (Andrea Riseborough) was a young single Texan mother, struggling to provide for her teenage son, when she struck lucky on the lottery. This made her a celebrity in her own town. However, just a few years later and she’s at her lowest ebb. Running out of money and options. Her son (Owen Teague) has finally had enough of her drinking and lies. She has nowhere left to turn when a kind-hearted motel manager (Marc Maron) offers her a job.
To Leslie is a powerful and moving indie drama which treats its subject matter with a lot of empathy and dignity. Riseborough is immense as the pseudo-tragic Leslie. A woman who’s made all the wrong choices and desperately wishes she could be a different person, but doesn’t know how. Michael Morris’ film doesn’t make her a hapless victim but instead a fully rounded character with her own licence. To Leslie treats alcoholism, abuse and small-town mentalities with a lot of humanity and patience.
To Leslie is out in US cinemas and on VoD now.