Francine | Chicago Reader

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75 minutes · 2012

In this documentary-style drama, Melissa Leo plays a recently released convict who may be mentally ill and who identifies more closely with animals than with people. The actress throws herself into the role with such zeal that she actually distracts one from the character, and her performance comes across as a series of stunts (losing herself at a DIY metal concert, having empty sex with an employer, depositing euthanized dogs into an incinerator). Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky, documentary makers trying their hand at drama, inspire a certain voyeuristic fascination toward the character but rarely sympathy. For better and for worse, their approach recalls the discomforting realism of Werner Herzog films like Stroszek and Even Dwarves Started Small—which is another way of saying the movie is an acquired taste.

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