Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Mompremier is superb in the lead."

Some 2.6 million immigrants work in health and social care provision in the US. On average they earn significantly less than their US-born counterparts, and many have additional costs, not only having to provide for their own needs but trying to save up money they can send back to their home countries to support loved ones there. Whilst the wages available in the US are well known around the world, the cost of living can be a shock for many who arrive there, putting them in a position where they feel they have no option but to take on extra shifts in order to increase their earnings - something which can rapidly become unsustainable.

Ludi (Shein Mompremier) has been taking extra shifts for a long time, to the point where her supervisors have decided that it's dangerous and nobody wants to be responsible for giving her another. Unable to find anything else, she arranges to fill in caring for a patient with dementia, something she hates doing. George (Alan Myles Heyman) typifies the reason why. He resents her presence and tries first to force, then to bribe her to leave. As she stands fast, determined to allow nothing that might damage her professional reputation, he keeps protesting that he doesn't need help, even though he's plainly struggling and at risk. She tries to talk him through it, to focus on the need for adjustment. He doesn't want to give any ground but he gradually develops a degree of sympathy for her position. Perhaps the experiences of an elderly Jewish immigrant and a younger Haitian one are not so different.

Edson Jean's film is full of subtle observations about the problems that elderly people often face, the shortcomings of a system under pressure and the personal toll all this takes on workers. Mompremier is superb in the lead, capturing that very precise tone that nurses use to deal with difficult patients, making Ludi every inch a professional but showing her exhaustion breaking through in little fits and starts - a pause slightly longer than it ought to be when she loses her ability to focus, a slow blink that could all too easily lead to eyelids staying closed. When she finally lets her pent up emotion pour out, it's a powerful expression of the damage done by a system that squeezes people for all they have to give. Yet as a number of people make clear to her, the system can't take all of the blame. She has to start making different choices, has to let go of the notion that she can save everyone.

There are places where this film is heavy handed and less surprising than it's trying to be, but this doesn't matter much in the scheme of things - it's that performance, and Ludi's personal journey, which really matter here. Heyman provides solid support and great production design adds further layers to the story just as the film's twists throw up further troubling questions of their own. People like Ludi too often go unseen. Jean's film makes her impossible to overlook.

Reviewed on: 17 Mar 2021
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A hardworking and exhausted nurse battles coworkers, clients and one impatient bus driver to learn her self worth as she chases the American Dream in Miami's Little Haiti neighbourhood.

Director: Edson Jean

Writer: Edson Jean, Joshua Jean-Baptiste

Starring: hein Mompremier, Alan Myles Heyman, Madelin Marchant, Success St. Fleur Jr., Kerline Alce, Plus Pierre, Patrice DeGraff Arenas, Farah Larrieux

Year: 2021

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: US


SXSW 2021

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