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Review: ‘To Leslie’ is an Oscar-worthy film by Michael Morris

“To Leslie,” directed by Michael Morris, is an exceptional new film starring Andrea Riseborough and Allison Janney.

Andrea Riseborough in 'To Leslie'
Andrea Riseborough in 'To Leslie'. Photo Courtesy of Momentum Pictures
Andrea Riseborough in 'To Leslie'. Photo Courtesy of Momentum Pictures

“To Leslie,” directed by Michael Morris, is an exceptional new film starring
Andrea Riseborough and Allison Janney.

The National Board of Review ranked “To Leslie” in its “Top 10 Independent Films.”

It takes place seven years after a lottery win ($190,000), and it deals with a West Texas single mother, Leslie (played by Andrea Riseborough) who is alone, living hard at the bottom of a bottle.

With nowhere left to go, she is forced to come home, especially since her former friends Nancy (Academy Award winner Allison Janney) and Dutch (Emmy nominee Stephen Root) want nothing to do with her anymore. Leslie has to confront her past, and thus make a challenging choice.

A motel employee, Sweeney (Marc Maron), helps give her a second chance in an effort to reconcile with her son James, and ultimately, find redemption.

Riseborough is not afraid to be bold, raw, and vulnerable, and it is safe to say that her vulnerability is the audience’s reward. She layers her emotions well, builds her complex character from within, and takes the viewers on a bumpy, edgy, and exhausting ride with her, but it is well worth it in the end.

Andrea Riseborough’s acting performance as Leslie is controlled, effervescent, and equal in excellence to that of Melissa Leo (“Frozen River”) meets Brie Larsen (“Room”). She scored a 2023 Independent Spirit Award nomination for “Best Lead Performance,” and rightfully so.

Owen Teague is convincing as her teenage son James, and Marc Maron is sensational and shows great depth with his character Sweeney. Allison Janney and Stephen Root deliver in their roles as well.

The script by Ryan Binaco is emotive, realistic, unflinching, and extremely relatable; moreover, the character description is quite impressive.

The movie is playing in theaters and On Demand. The trailer may be seen below.

The movie’s musical score is also noteworthy, and the inclusion of the Linda Perry-penned, Patty Griffin-performed acoustic tune “Angels Are Falling” is stirring, and a real treat.

The Verdict

Overall, “To Leslie” is an extraordinary yet intense film from start to finish. Prepare to be blown away by Andrea Riseborough and her transformative performance as Leslie, as well as the ensemble of actors, all of which are gifted in their own right.

Director Michael Morris proves to be one master provocateur. The fact that this movie was inspired by true events makes it even more compelling.

“To Leslie” deserves to the recognized at this year’s Academy Awards. Its storytelling all around is utterly fantastic. It garners five out of five stars.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 20,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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