Moody and pensive, Megan Griffiths’ Sadie isn’t your typical coming-of-age drama. It centers on 13-year-old Sadie (Sophia Mitri Schloss), who’s determined to do whatever it takes to keep her family together, despite her soldier father’s long deployment overseas and her mother, Rae’s (Melanie Lynskey), increasing loneliness and dissatisfaction with her long-distance marriage.
Sadie finds it a bit fun/amusing to interfere with the fumbling efforts of well-meaning Bradley (Tony Hale), whom Rae sort of strings along out of desperation but clearly isn’t all that interested in. But when Rae is genuinely drawn to new neighbor Cyrus (John Gallagher Jr.), Sadie’s alarm bells ring much more loudly, and she begins an all-out assault on the couple’s romance, often putting herself — and others — in risky situations as a result.
Griffiths, who also wrote the script, does an excellent job creating a world that’s full of realistic shades of gray — no one here is all good or all bad; they’re all just people trying to find connection in a challenging world. It’s impossible to blame Rae for wanting more than a husband who’s oceans away, both physically and emotionally, but it’s also completely understandable why Sadie is so focused on keeping her dad in the picture. When she acts out, it’s clear that she’s doing what she thinks needs to be done for the greater good.
The cast delivers uniformly strong performances; Lynskey is always good, and here she navigates “loving mom” and “lonely woman” very carefully, striking a balance that keeps her sympathetic throughout. And Schloss is intensely affecting as Sadie. The character is often difficult to like, but Schloss’ focus and follow through are undeniable. — Betsy Bozdech
Team #MOTW’s comments:
Loren King: Writer/director Megan Griffiths gives us, with Sadie, a big screen character we don’t see often enough: an American girl, barely a teen, whose childhood has been defined by a distant war. Though we never see a battle, or her soldier dad, the war in the Middle East has created a void in her young life. Read full review.
MaryAnn Johanson Writer-director Megan Griffiths knows how to do harrowing. Her 2013 film, Eden, is a brutal tale of a young woman kidnapped into sex slavery, and what she does to survive. Her latest, Sadie, has a disturbing power that sneaks up on you from an unexpected quarter: that of the moment of a teenaged girl’s crossing the boundary from childhood to too-early adulthood via a path that I cannot recall seeing onscreen before. This is a coming-of-age story that feels at once very universal, about impulses that are deeply rooted crossculturally in human experience and emotion, yet also one very much of its time and place: working-class America in the early 21st century. It’s also a story that, I suspect, would work equally well with a teenaged boy at its center without changing very much at all, but which gets extra unnerving power by casting it as a girl’s journey. Read full review.
Nell Minow: Melanie Lynskey and John Gallagher Jr. are two of the most gifted actors in film, and the roles they have in “Sadie” allow them to fully inhabit characters who are imperfect but good-hearted and very real. Writer/director Megan Griffiths gives her characters room to breathe — and to make mistakes — and she shows a gift for working with young actors.
Sandie Angulo Chen: This past weekend I both saw writer-director Megan Griffiths’ bleak coming-of-age film Sadie and read author Courtney Summers’ bleak young-adult novel Sadie. Both are uncomfortable-to-consume stories about borderline “unlikable,” trailer park-dwelling, adolescent young women named Sadie dealing with fractured families, dashed hopes, and tragedy. The book is an excellent feminist treatise on the many ways abuse survivors have to relive and rage against their past traumas, while the movie is an unpredictable, unsettling character study. Griffiths’ Sadie (Sophia Mitri Schloss) is only 13, and she idolizes – in a shockingly violent manner — her military father, an officer deployed overseas. When Sadie realizes her mother Rae (Melanie Lynskey) considers her marriage estranged, Sadie begins to act out – in cringe-worthy, misguided, and somewhat psychopathic ways – to ensure her father has a place in their family when he returns home. Schloss is fantastic as the layered and slightly scary Sadie, and the entire cast – including John Gallagher Sr. as Rae’s new love interest and Danielle Brooks as her neighbor and best friend – is equally as good with the material. Griffiths, like Summers, has a gift for portraying the working poor without judgment or condescension. Add Sadie the movie and the book to your to-see/to-read lists this autumn.
Marilyn Ferdinand: If you were raising a monster, would you know it? The title character in Megan Griffith’s new film seems like an ordinary 13-year-old—curious and awkward around boys, sulky with her mother, and looking forward to the day her father, deployed overseas for four years, will come home. Sadie is also quite intelligent, has a gift for writing, and is starting to display extreme tendencies, like threatening a bully with a gun and trying to sabotage her mother’s budding extramarital romance with sexual and violent provocations. Sophia Mitri Schloss is magnetic and intense as the troubled Sadie, keeping the depth of her disturbance under deep cover. Melanie Lynskey, who played a deeply disturbed teen herself in the excellent and frightening Heavenly Creatures (1994), is effective as her caring, but lonely mother who fails to see through Sadie’s devious behavior. Sadie is a film that slowly entrances with its wonderful ensemble cast of characters who build a believable community spirit in its trailer park setting. The dark finale isn’t entirely unexpected, but somewhat betrays the emotional camaraderie that went before it.
Jennifer Merin Sadie is writer/director Megan Griffiths’ compelling coming of age drama about a teenage girl (Sophia Mitri Schloss) who adores her military dad and is desperate to preserve his place in the family, although his absence on long term deployment has caused her painfully lonely mom (Meanie Lynskey) to feel tremendous emotional distance from him and to open herself to romance with another man. Schloss and Lynskey deliver heart wrenching performances in this strikingly femme-centric film which shoots an arrow right into the heart of domestic disruption that results from faraway wars.
Esther Iverem: Sadie is a rare film that interrogates how poverty and never ending U.S. wars impact American children and lead to tragedy. Megan Griffith’s film is choppy in spots but John Gallagher stands out in his role as an opioid addict in denial.
Director: Megan Griffiths
Principal Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Sophia Mitri Schloss
Release Date: October 12, 2018
Running Time: 96 minutes
Screenwriter: Megan Griffiths
Distribution Company: Pressing Pictures
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Nikki Baughan, Anne Brodie, Betsy Bozdech, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, Esther Iverem, MaryAnn Johanson, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Kristen Page-Kirby, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna, Jeanne Wolf
Edited by Jennifer Merin