Maggie Cheung plays a junkie rock ex-semi-star. Her common law husband, also a never-quite-made-it rocker in decline dies of a heroin overdose. She spends 6 months in prison for possession. Meanwhile her young son is being raised by her dead husband's parents.
Nick Nolte, as the grandfather does some terrific, nuanced work as a flinty man, with a soft heart.
He won't let Cheung see her son until she gets her life together, which she circuitously
does, weaning herself off drugs, getting basic work, and eventually starting the process of reconnecting to her son, especially as Nolte realizes, with his wife dying, and his own aging, the boy will eventually need his mother.
The film avoids the usual clichés and sensationalism of drug movies - no throwing
up or screaming withdrawals. It's low key and real, filled with small moments of life
rather than than dramatic highlights. It's willing to have lead characters who are unlikable
and selfish at times, and yet still makes us care for, and be moved by them.
But there's also a flatness to it. And a sense of familiarity and predictability to the plot, if
not the execution. It's great that it doesn't fall into melodrama, but it feels distanced. As
one critic put it `it avoids moralizing, but fails to replace it with anything'. A bit harsh, but
not without some truth.
Also, Cheung, while very good in spots, never seems believable as a junkie; she's gorgeous healthy looking and luminous on drugs or off.
On the other hand the photography is beautiful, and the score is filled with wonderful and effective music by Brian Eno.
Worth a look for the acting, and the small grace moments throughout.