TIFF 2011 - Think of Me a bleak realistic portrait of poverty Special

Posted Sep 14, 2011 by David Silverberg
One of the more timely films debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival is Think of Me, the story of an American woman struggling with her finances while trying to raise a precocious daughter naive to the despair weighing down her family.
Film still from Think of Me  starring Lauren Ambrose and Audrey P. Scott
Film still from Think of Me, starring Lauren Ambrose and Audrey P. Scott
Courtesy TIFF
If there's any film showing how financial suffering bogs down an atypical American family, look no further than Think of Me, which recently screened at TIFF. Set in Nevada, the bleak film gives us an up-close view of how poverty compels people to do things they eventually regret.
It couldn't have come at a better time: the U.S. Census Bureau reported yesterday the American poverty rate has reached its highest level in 18 years. Angela (Lauren Ambrose of Six Feet Under game) is one of those mothers trying to make ends meet, even if those ends rarely justify the means. She asks men she beds for money; she reconsiders keeping her dog; and she screams at her daughter (Audrey P. Scott) when frustration boils over.
The pain Angela feels is all too believable, making the drama sink in deeper. She takes another job and plays slot machines at convenience stores. More scenes depict her financial struggle, but it's really the mother-daughter relationship propelling the film to a heady climax.
Scott's performance as eight-year-old Sunny is intriguing for its simplicity. Scott doesn't overact but instead relies on her tomboy charm to pull us into the story. She delivers dialogue with a punch at the right moments and even her expressionless face doesn't seem forced. Look for Scott to snag more quality roles as producers take notice of this budding talent.
Lauren Ambrose in the film Think of Me
Lauren Ambrose in the film Think of Me
Courtesy TIFF
As Angela, the wide-eyed Ambrose brings a ferocious intensity to her role. When she begins to crumble, the realism hits you in the stomach, especially when she's choking on tears. This is a woman torn by her parental duties and her desire to be free from debt. That pain is only made more visible through several metaphors, such as her constantly dying car. In one way, her car is a character in of itself.
Think of Me might not be the best pick-me-up movie. Instead, it's a powerful portrayal of the despair many American families are facing today, and if it's too dark to stomach, then the film did its job.
Check out other TIFF reviews here.