In films about sex trafficking, like Megan Griffiths's Eden, the smallest comment or gesture is often laden with portent. In the prologue to Sold, Jeffrey D. Brown’s adaptation of Patricia McCormick’s YA novel, 13-year-old Lakshmi (newcomer Niyar Saikia, a sympathetic if unsteady presence) tells her mother she has no intention of washing men's feet when she grows up. It's the first clue that she'll be doing a lot worse, and soon. And that's what happens when heavy rains destroy her family's crops.
Lakshmi takes a job in Kolkata to help the out the family, thinking she’ll work as a cleaning woman for a respectable family, but she ends up in a brothel where she must service brutish men until she pays off her so-called debt. It's clear she needs a knight in shining armor to whisk her away from this nightmare. Her salvation arrives in the form of a photographer (Gillian Anderson) who makes Lakshmi's freedom her personal mission.
Anderson is good, and it's unlikely she would have signed on unless she cared about the issue, but she can't quite turn this extended PSA into a film. Sold isn't cheap or shoddy—cinematographer Seamus Tierney is sensitive to light and color—and the relationships between the captives is affecting, but it's impossible to shake the feeling that itwould make more sense in a lecture hall than in a theater.