After Oscar nominations for Passion Fish and Lone Star, director/writer John Sayles’ latest film Go For Sisters tackles the gray areas of right, wrong, and the law. Bernice (LisaGay Hamilton) is a parole officer who is tough but fair on her “clients,” until she finds that her estranged son Rodney may be mixed up in life-threatening activities of his own, involving Chinese smugglers dealing in human cargo across the Mexican border. She enlists the help of the her old friend and parolee Fontayne (Yolonda Ross) who in turn hooks Bernice up with retired cop Freddy Suarez (Edward James Olmos) and the motley crew descends upon Tijuana and Mexicali in an effort to find Rodney before he is killed.
Sayles is well-known in the independent film community and it’s clear why. Go For Sisters is quiet and reserved, given the subject matter, and instead of pumping up the film with the action and violence typical of mainstream detective thrillers, Sayles sticks to making time for his characters. Instead of action sequences breaking up the monotony of the plot, there are moments of reminiscing between Bernice and Fontayne, as they ponder their life and friendship before their paths diverged from one another. It’s a setup that makes for a nice payoff at the end between the two characters, as they take the first step towards a new relationship. Hamilton and Ross are the two reasons to see this movie, as the rest of the film’s plot is merely a vehicle for these characters to get back into each other lives. Olmos does well as the disgraced former cop, but he arrives when the best moments of the film featuring Bernice and Fontayne are long gone.
I admire Sayles’ style of independent filmmaking. It’s devoid of any flowery flourishes and grand artistry, and simply relies on great characters performed by talented actors to unveil the story on screen.
Go For Sisters opens today in Philly area theaters.