The epidemic rise of heroin-addiction in suburban Long Island serves as the backdrop for some heavy-duty emoting in "Adrift," a stagy melodrama written and directed by Christopher James Lopez.
Schoolteacher Cecelia Fernandez (Lauren Luna Velez) once thought she, her husband (Tony Plana) and three sons were living the American dream when they moved into a comfy home complete with swimming pool, tucked into a picturesque tree-lined street.
But that was likely before the Long Island Expressway had come to be known as "The Heroin Highway," with her youngest son, Cameron (Angel Curiel) plunging into a downward spiral of addiction and dealing.
The resulting chaos and hand-wringing is being quietly observed by angelic middle son, Sam (Davi Santos), who's writing a book about his family's growing dysfunction, also titled "Adrift," and one can only hope it takes a more focused, less heavy-handed approach to storytelling.
With its tangle of flashbacks that switch from color to black and white, Lopez's first feature comes across as fragmented and overwrought, with characters and performances that seem to have been egged on by the score's achingly purposeful piano.
The notable exception is Velez, likely best known as the no-nonsense police Lt. Maria LaGuerta on Showtime's "Dexter."
As the matriarch who's entrusted with holding it all together, Velez miraculously manages to do likewise with the telenovela-pitched dialogue — that is, until the film veers full-throttle into revenge-fantasy mode.
By that point, any remaining trace of audience involvement will likely have gone the way of the dual-purpose title.
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Playing: Downtown Independent, Los Angeles