Francine (Melissa Leo) was just released from prison and is trying to rebuild her life. She starts working in a pet store, but soon her withdrawn, a bit surly attitude costs her that job. The local church group, headed by Linda (Victoria Charkut) tries to help her find a new job. But Francine generally has a really hard time connecting to people. The only really meaningful relationships she can make are with the various pets she keeps collecting.
Melissa Leo is fantastic, and the film was a wonderful, sensitive character study that uses her in the best possible way. I loved it.
The movie tells its story slowly and calmly and if it had been any longer, this might have gotten a little boring. But it wasn’t. Instead I was intrigued the entire time through and it was just the perfect length.
The situation Francine faces is difficult and also difficult to tell. But Cassidy and Shatzky make it look easy, extremely natural and manage to stay non-judgemental throughout. (Less so the audience who I wanted to strangle sometimes. Like when they didn’t stop laughing at a cat being prepped for surgery. I really must have missed the funny there. Or when [SPOILERS] Francine and Linda kiss and there were actual gasps. I shit you not. Two women kissing! Let me get my pearls so I can clutch them. [/SPOILERS])
In any case Cassidy and Shatzky pull off what so many other people fail at: plotting a story that in hindsight is absolutely inevitable, but still surprises you as it unfolds.
And they are lucky enough to have Melissa Leo in the lead role. She’s perfect: vulnerable, prickly, caring, distant and just completely and entirely lost. The supporting cast is also pretty good – especially Victoria Charkut and Keith Leonard (who, btw, is really hot). I was wondering whether they were just amateur actors who played themselves, they were that realistic and convincing. It was just excellence all around.