Sadie, the latest from local filmmaker Megan Griffiths (Lucky Them, The Off Hours, Eden), has a perfect Northwest feel. Sadie is 13 years old and lives with her mother in a dilapidated trailer park. The place is both suburban and on the outskirts of society. It seems like a place where people just end up and get stuck, but the residents have created a tight-knit community for themselves.
Sadie worships her absent father (who has spent many years away in the military) while being impossible with her harried working mother, Rae. The father occasionally writes Sadie, but he hasn't communicated with Sadie's mother in three years. Rae seems a bit unmoored, but you have to sympathize with a woman trying to work and raise a kid on her own; she just wants some kind of life for herself, too.
Sadie is smart and precocious, and she is trying to come to an understanding of how the world works and her agency in it. But the adults around her have their own problems. The grown-ups don't neglect the children as much as they distractedly leave them to their own devices. As Sadie tells her best friend, Francis: "We're kids; nobody cares what we do."
When a new guy moves into the trailer park, he catches Rae's eye. He is appealing in some ways, but he also seems to have some problems we don't quite understand. His background is murky and he doesn't even live in an actual trailer, just a small RV camper. But he is pretty cute, and Rae is lonely and ready to move on from her broken marriage.
Needless to say, father-obsessed Sadie is unhappy with her mother spending time with a new man. The young teen is determined to make sure he doesn't stick around, so that her dad can come back home and be part of the family again. Sadie is on the cusp of adulthood, but she still lacks emotional maturity or an understanding of grown-up relationships. You can see her mind churning, trying to figure out how to get the outcome she wants.
The film has a great cast: The wonderful Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures, Togetherness) plays Rae, and the talented Sophia Mitri Schloss (from last year's SIFF favorite Lane 1974) plays Sadie. Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black) as the best friend and neighbor, John Gallagher Jr. (Short Term 12) as the possible love interest, and Tony Hale (Arrested Development) as the lovelorn school counselor ably round things out.
When young people are left to themselves, they can develop their own way of looking at right and wrong. Sadie is a person who is not fully developed, but yet she has her own ideas about life. The film shows the way adults communicate with kids, never talking to them directly, trying to fool the youngsters and themselves at the same time. This leaves the young people with half-assed ideas, and they can run with them without really understanding the situation, with decidedly mixed results.