Sadie takes place in a vast network of trailers of a blue-collar community. Here, the titular character lives with her mother, Rae (Melanie Lynskey), while her father fights overseas. She’s 13 with only one real friend, Francis (Keith L. Williams), who might be the cutest character of 2018 next to Paddington.
Director Megan Griffiths‘s coming of age film nobly attempts to tread new ground, yet doesn’t wholly succeed. Griffiths’s film is another story that features a young female who worships at the feet of a father who can do no wrong, while despising a mother who can do nothing right. Her lead character, Sadie is precocious, blunt, and dark.
The film’s first half is a successfully wrought drama. As Rae tries to move on from her husband, Sadie is disapproving of all male candidates who court her mother, first sabotaging her school’s counselor Bradley (Tony Hale), then her next door neighbor, Cyrus (John Gallagher Jr.). None can match her absent father, who’s been overseas for 4 years. Much is the reaction of any teenager missing a parent, which is especially the case when one substitute is boring, Bradley, and the other is an ex-pilot with a pain killer problem, Cyrus. Sadie works well within these confines, as its lead character grapples with the men in her life and the adults who lack awareness of her feelings.
There’s also a neat balancing between supporting characters. Her best friend Francis, who’s under her protection, exposes the issues surrounding bullied children. Francis’s grandfather, Deak (Tee Dennard), is loving played as the wise old man silently, and many times not so silently, judging his younger counterparts. And Carla (Danielle Brooks), Rae’s best friend, also has a worthwhile mini-arc of her own.
However, the second half of the film becomes unconvincing, as each twist veers and eventually spirals into the absurd. Sadie, who’s manipulative, soon turns dark as she schemes to protect Francis and push “intruding” men out of her mother’s life. These sequences would be interesting and new, if their events didn’t lead to absurd conclusions. Indeed, there are moments when even the character is pushed to the brink of impossibility, especially in regards to her apathy. Coupled with the fact that the character never grows, remaining as a vague assemblage of traits, the proceeding events and actions lack context and reasoning. Which is a shame because Sadie has something to offer, something new and exciting. And if it were 10 minutes longer, and fully sketched out its lead character, it would.
Instead, the film solely serves as a breakout performance from Sophia Mitri Schloss, who utterly disappears in the role of Sadie. Her performance may bring back overtures of Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace), another character who adores her father, yet it’s singular in its manipulative descent. It’s difficult to play apathy, yet bring fits of innocence and eagerness to the table. Schloss appears to do such with ease, while balancing the tropes of troubled and intelligent teen and the hurt young adult. The film puts the world on notice that Schloss is a name to be sought after and watched over the next few years.