Hot Docs 2017
An inside look at a toxic mother/daughter relationship.
Almost a mash-up between GREY GARDENS and WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, Stockley’s unusual and discomforting portrait introduces viewers to 55-year-old Jessica and her 91-year-old mother Ruth, who have lived together in a cramped, rent-controlled West Village apartment since 1957. Jessica is introduced first, an opinionated troublemaker who antagonizes the police in the opening scene, and who reveals that she’s just prevailed in a protracted battle to have Ruth released from an eldercare facility after the latter was ruled incompetent and removed from Jessica’s care. But Jessica’s not quite the hero she at first appears to be. Once home, the self-proclaimed genius goes at her mother, a retired one-time opera singer, with such venom, it’s at times hard to watch. There’s a definite line of exploitation that the film skirts, or arguably crosses, in documenting the ravings of someone likely suffering from borderline personality disorder, and the resultant verbal abuse heaped on Ruth. At the same time, Ruth gives as good as she gets, complicating matters in this fascinating portrait of family dysfunction that’s sure to provoke heated discussion and debate among its audience.