An adolescent girl grapples with the absence of her father in “Sadie,” Megan Griffiths’ exploration of the darker side of girlhood. Sophia Mitri Schloss delivers a powerful performance as the troubled Sadie, who is fixated on her military father, away at war. Her mother, Rae (Melanie Lynskey), is trying to move on from her absentee husband, and when the rough but charming Cyrus (John Gallagher Jr.) moves his RV into their small community, the two connect in a doomed whirlwind romance.
“Sadie” is at its best when focusing on its titular antiheroine; the bizarre manipulations and machinations that she dreams up to preserve her home and family for her father’s return. She writes him weekly letters and her violent, murderous school essays warrant calls to her mother. Sadie tries to ward off Cyrus and his attentions toward her mom, though he’s his own brand of whiskey-swilling, pill-popping troubled soul.
While the pace of “Sadie” meanders and is often a bit pokey, the excellent cast, including Danielle Brooks as Carla, the local bartender and Rae’s best friend, brings your attention fully to the dramatic goings-on in this tiny community. Lynskey, always a wonder, is beautifully naturalistic in her performance as a mother trying to be a person in the world, though sometimes that distracts from being present with her daughter.
But it’s Schloss who owns “Sadie” in a finely-tuned performance of a girl learning her own power and the consequences of her actions.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood