In New York City, Gulley, who's in middle school, lives with his father and step-mother; his paternal grandmother dominates the family's life. In secret, he's recently been in touch with his mother, Kailey, a pool hustler, who wants to win big and take Gulley to Canada. With the help of Teddy Quinette, who runs Quinn's Pool Hall, Kailey may get her shot at big money. Can she win the match, keep her son's confidence, and, using fake documents she gets from Markus, a friend of hers, make it to Canada to start a new life? Written by
strong performances and atmosphere overcome underwhelming drama
Hardscrabble single moms appear to be all the rage in indie dramas these days. That may account for why, after "Frozen River," "Sleepwalking" and the like, "Turn the River" doesn't feel quite as original and fresh as it otherwise might.
Kailey Sullivan is a down-on-her-luck pool hustler who doesn't even have visitation rights with her 11-year-old son who lives with his abusive dad and stepmother. Kailey's plan is to make just enough money at the tables to enable her to grab the kid and head north of the border.
Written and directed by Chris Eigeman, "Turn the River" has a nice feel for the rhythms and tones of everyday life, with the drama as understated as the performances. The scenes between mother and son are particularly well conceived and executed. There is sensitive, thoughtful, subtle work by Famke Janssen as Kailey; Jaymie Dornana as her son, Gulley; Matt Ross as Gulley's dad; Lois Smith as the boy's paternal grandmother; and Rip Torn as the pool hall owner who sets up matches for the cash-strapped Kailey and serves as go-between for her and her son.
Even the melodrama at the end is nicely underplayed, so much so that we can forgive the air of déjà vu that hangs over much of the work.
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