What lies beneath our external persona and how we carry our past is an often an untapped, intriguing and even dangerous place to explore - and to return to.
So, as we see Charlize Theron, extremely unglamorous as she rises from yet another bed at another man's house, in Portland, Oregon, an air of sadness drifts over us. Yet, as debut director Guillermo Arriaga grapples with his own script - and he has written some corkers - Babel & 21 Grams - we are strangely hooked.
We want to see this woman and her life and how it connects with the rest of the film. As guarded restaurateur, Sylvia (Theron) we see that she's preoccupied and soon, she meets up with a figure from the past. From here - and inter-cut with the present, we visit her past life and how childhood events have shaped her. I won't reveal too much about this, except Kim Bassinger plays her mother, who has a torrid affair with Hispanic farmer Nick (Joaquim de Almeida - whom many will recognise but not be able to name!) near their New Mexico home.
This is typical independent cinema; often slow, raw and intense and generally, as attractive as real life is - not very. Acting is always compelling and almost uncomfortably real but just because a film ticks all the 'pure' boxes, it doesn't necessarily make for a good film, which needs to be entertaining AND interesting. The latter, generally, yes, the former, not often and somehow the length and story don't make for a film that's totally satisfying. The good cinematography helps, though, as does the sparse and atmospheric music.
Many will find the general pessimism of the film a little overbearing and this isn't Arriaga's best script; apparently the movie didn't do well at the box office and maybe the director will go on to produce a better film or write more great scripts for someone else to direct.