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TO LESLIE (2022, USA) – 7/10

Winning the lottery for most of those rare lucky ones usually represents an opportunity for a new beginning or at least getting out of financial difficulties. Not for the main character of this quality drama motivated by real events, a single mother from rural Texas, Leslie (the excellent Englishwoman Andrea Riseborough). Right in the prologue of the film, which was shot by the television director Michael Morris based on Ryan Binaco’s script, while the credits of the film are still running, we see that typical white woman from the passive parts of America, a single mother of a boy who is happy because she won two hundred thousand dollars in the local lottery. She is happy because she is convinced that her life will change for the better, now she will finally open a small restaurant, pay back her debts, but something in that old VHS recording seems to cause some doubt because her son James does not seem so happy.

Then we go six years into the future and see that none of what Leslie planned has come to pass. Very quickly she drank all the money and destroyed relationships with all the people she knew and practically hit rock bottom. No one wants to deal with her because she’s a drunkard and a drug addict who betrayed everyone’s trust and just got kicked out of the motel where she lived. The next stop on her journey is finding her son, now 19-year-old James (Owen Teague), who ran away from his mother a few years earlier because he simply couldn’t be with her anymore. He is trying to build his life, but he will take pity on his mother and accept her, but not for long because Leslie is a person who cannot be trusted and who can’t seem to change.

It is a woman who simply has to complain and it is frightening how she behaves. It is clear to us that she is primarily angry with herself, and then with everyone around her because of her decisions in life, and that no one is to blame but herself for the situation in which she found herself. And although it seems that a person like her has blown all the chances that were offered to her in life, when she finally returns to her hometown where she once won the lottery, she will have a new opportunity. But the question is whether Leslie is ready to accept that opportunity or whether her life is irretrievably destroyed in this surprisingly good, realistic drama that brings together a solid cast that includes Allison Janney and Marc Maron among others.

And although at first it may sound like “To Leslie” is one of those films of clichés, sad and pathetic dramaturgs about the sad fates of people from the bottom of American society, it was quite a solid surprise. Mostly thanks to the convincing performance of Riseborough, who carries the whole story and thanks to her, it all seems very convincing. It is a fine character study of a woman who literally destroyed and ruined life not only for herself, but also for all her close people and a woman who is fully aware that she cannot blame anyone but herself for everything bad that has happened in her life. Does she have the strength, will and energy to try to take advantage of the new chance that will be presented to her, is the main question of the film that premiered at the South by Southwest independent film festival in Austin.