Parents' Guide to

To Leslie

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Brilliantly acted drama has addiction, strong language.

Movie R 2022 119 minutes
To Leslie Movie Poster

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Riseborough gives a riveting performance in this addiction drama about the need for empathy toward people who've exhausted their second chances. This isn't an easy film to watch, but viewers won't be able to look away. Director Michael Morris, working off of a screenplay by Ryan Binaco, manages not to judge Leslie for her continuous compulsion to drink. He also doesn't succumb to the predictable formula of having her get clean for her kid -- or after her former best friends offer her yet another chance to prove she's changed. Leslie doesn't magically get better just because James (Teague is fabulous in the supporting role) desperately wants her to stay sober. The conversations between Leslie and James are powerful, nuanced, and heartbreaking.

The other supporting actors have just as much impact. Janney seems cruelly unforgiving as Nancy, but once it becomes clear exactly what Leslie did, it's hard to judge Nancy for wanting nothing to do with Leslie's lies. But aside from Riseborough, the real star of the film is Maron, who's quietly, intensely kind as the lonely and curmudgeonly Sweeney, a man who understands how addiction works and alienates people. He sees Leslie exactly as she is, but also as she could be. Their connection is deep, and while there's more platonic energy than romantic chemistry between them, it's obvious why they'd be attracted to each other. There's nowhere for Leslie to go but up, and, despite her countless lies and flaws, audiences will find it impossible not to hope she can make it, one day at a time.

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