Mary-Louise Parker plays the mother of three young children. Her oldest son, Izzy, about 8 years old (?), is running wild on the streets, and she has no control over him. As the movie starts, Parker and her other children are going to see their ill father in the hospital. While Parker watches over her husband hooked up to oxygen, Izzy breaks into an apartment.
Izzy has his technique down. He buzzes the intercom until he finds someone not answering. He goes to that apartment through the fire escape and window. Some of the most humorous parts are what he finds and what he does in these apartments. He is not interested in stealing for monetary gain. He sometimes eats their food, takes a shower, moves their furniture around, and writes messages. The most disturbing thing that he does is that he always burns something--a candle or scraps of paper. It's all a ritual, a form of escapism, that helps him deal with his father's stroke.
Izzy's dad comes home because Parker's insurance is running out. She is an English teacher, and his coming home makes her unable to work. The stress point is high. Parker knows her son is up to no good, and he does finally get caught--the residents of this home were there in bed screwing, but not answering their intercom! Things escalate with Izzy's pyromania, and he sets an apartment afire. They live in the same building--and panic sets in on how they will get the father out safely because he is wheelchair bound. Fortunately, they are rescued, but they move back to Parker's hometown of Michigan as her over-bearing mother suggested because New York is no place for children--or for the down and out. The movie ends with the family, full of hope, leaving in the car, but essentially being forced by circumstances to make this decision.
I would probably like this movie better if it wasn't so depressing. Between scenes, two very young boys in the playground rap the filthiest things you probably ever heard. Parker swears and yells at Izzy, but you can tell she loves him. It's probably a more realistic version of a mother, but her comments border on verbal abuse--and it is no wonder that Izzy is on his way to delinquency. I don't know if I could watch it again.