Watching this slow-moving, quietly painful film, I had two things at the back of my mine. One was my own mother's struggles as an educated but not very practical single mother decades ago and the other was a recent news item about a judge who took a Guatemalan immigrant's child away from her on the grounds that she had "abandoned" the child by... being arrested as an illegal immigrant. In other words, watching this woman struggle to take care of her daughter while making a series of bad decisions all along the way was also watching the real story of innumerable women, some like her, some not so much, who find it almost impossible to do the one thing they most want to do: take care of their children. It is painful to watch, not least because some of the women in this situation will make all manner of damaging decisions out of desperation and the film just shows some of the issues that can prompt that desperation: not getting child support, trying to work two jobs, unexpected expenses which are catastrophic on a tight income, etc. It is easy to get impatient with this character in a number of cases, but it is also clear that, in her own sloppy and ill-prepared way, she is trying; trying and often being thwarted. There is one central developing dilemma which gives the story something of a spine, but really overall we're left with the sense that, rather than being this woman's main story, it is one episode out of many in what will always be a life of uncertainty and limited choices. The film is shot in a gloomy, unadorned way with no background music or other overt cinematographic touches and so it is overall an unsparing experience. Echoing after it is the awareness that some women will triumph in similar situations, others will end up overwhelmed and making all manner of bad decisions - if a choice made when boxed into a corner can be called a decision.
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