‘To Leslie:’ After America’s Opportunism, a Love Letter to Depressed, Impoverished White People

Once the theme of a movie has been decided, the most important part is whether the movie can capture the subtleties of the heart through narrative technique. Thus, we saw the success of the multiple-perspective narrative in “Aftersun” and viewed an ordinary mother through a brand-new narrative technique in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” In “To Leslie,” the film begins with a montage, pushing Leslie’s life from the high of winning the lottery to the low of facing the reality of the rest of her life.

By starting the movie with fireworks, the rest of Leslie’s idle life has even more layers.

A contender for Best Actress at this year’s Oscars, “To Leslie” is a work that emphasizes the inner world of the characters. Like “The Whale,” it looks ordinary but provoked an outburst of strong backlash.

Middle-aged people like Leslie who try to escape life’s problems but do not know what they are chasing are not uncommon. After winning the lottery, Leslie’s life is more frustrating, and after squandering her money, she is even more at a loss.

It is a film appropriate for dealing with details after the pandemic because it is about the substance of life. After the pandemic, people realized they had to face problems with the economy, technology and international relations. The façade of ease and comfort in this world began to crack. Leslie’s character is filled with the opportunistic and indulgent values held by the U.S. since the ’90s. After chasing excitement, she tastes the feeling of emptiness. Leslie’s personal circumstances reflect the current collective daze of realizing prosperity is in the past.

In the past, Leslie relied on opportunism to survive, instinctually seeking sensual pleasure without any real grip on life. Through Andre Riseborough’s gripping performance, you can feel the emptiness of Leslie’s soul. Winning the lottery was the brightest period in her life, but after, she could not sustain the courage to live. That one moment of luck prematurely confirmed the emptiness of her willpower.

This film is like peeling an onion — watching how one success or stroke of luck tests a person’s courage to face ruin. Riseborough flawlessly portrays a woman who escapes her failures daily with an alcohol addiction. She slogs through the mire of her life with fear in her bones, all expressed through subtle emotion in her eyes. She interprets the role of a sober person who wants to drink themselves to death, someone shameless who wants to ask for help, and even though she makes the audience dislike her, they can understand how she lost herself.

In fact, after the financial fantasies of Wall Street, recent American movies have reflected on the crazy opportunism of the past and the emptiness of the soul it created. From “Nomadland” to “To Leslie,” these films seem to be love letters to depressed and impoverished white people. The sweet aftertaste with which the second half of the movie leaves you is like that of “Nomadland” when the characters search for a real taste of life. “To Leslie,” while unassuming, is purely moving.

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