Her skills are well displayed in "High Tide," a film that matches her up a second time with director Gillian Armstrong, who gave Davis her first major success with "My Brilliant Career." In that film, Davis played a young woman who was determined to make it in the world, despite the suffocation she felt from her community and upbringing. In "High Tide," however, Davis' character, Lillie, is roughly the opposite: she gave up on any hope for her future when she was young, and, after giving birth to a child, runs from her responsibilities and takes up a life without direction or meaning. When she finally meets up with her daughter years later, the thought of taking care of her child is petrifying; she knows this is her chance to atone for her failures, but how can she be honest with her daughter and still gain her respect?
Gillian Armstrong's films usually relate stories about characters who desperately want to communicate with each other, but face obstacles set up by their own personal habits and addictions. "Oscar and Lucinda," for instance, was about a man and a woman who desperately needed each other's love but were always blindsided by their craving for chance, represented by their gambling addictions. Here, we are immersed in the world of a family torn apart by the mother's inability to commit to a settled life and her struggles to redeem herself despite being fully convinced that it's too late to change for the better. This is not simply a film with a great performance at its center, but also a rare achievement: a fully convincing story of redemption.