Sophia Mitri Schloss is brilliant as the titular troubled trailer park teen in ‘Sadie.’ Photo by TJ Williams Jr.

Sophia Mitri Schloss is brilliant as the titular troubled trailer park teen in ‘Sadie.’ Photo by TJ Williams Jr.

Trailer Park Blues

Megan Griffiths’s Sadie taps into the dark side of teenage angst through Sophia Mitri Schloss’s strong lead performance.

At the beginning of a movie, you look for little indicators that you’re in good hands. It could be a neatly-choreographed action scene, an actor’s brilliant monologue, or a fantastic “How did they do that?” camera move.

In Sadie, I got that feeling from a plate of Ritz crackers. We’ve just met the 13-year-old title character (played by Sophia Mitri Schloss) in the trailer park where she lives, along with her school chum Francis (the wonderfully deadpan Keith L. Williams) and his laid-back grandfather (Tee Dennard). Francis disappears into a trailer and reappears a minute later carrying the tray of crackers (can’t swear it’s Ritz, could possibly be Cheez-Its), which he offers to his pals. No one calls attention to this, or makes a joke of it; it stays in the background, and it tells you something about Francis, and the community in the park, and that somebody behind the camera has an eye for details.

In this case the eye behind the camera belongs to Seattle writer/director Megan Griffiths, whose previous films include Eden and Lucky Them. In Sadie, Griffiths takes a potentially standard coming-of-age setting and gradually bends it into something odd and troubling. This film, no matter how its Ritz-cracker details ring true, plays as a kind of dark, slightly unreal fairy tale—like a Roald Dahl yarn where the kids take things just a little too far for comfort. Sadie is a heroine who won’t allow you to make easy conclusions about her ferocious will.

She lives with her mom Rae (Melanie Lynskey, authentic as always), and entertains hopes that her father will soon return from his overseas military duty, which has stretched to four years now. Rae does not share this hope, and has allowed Sadie’s nerdy school administrator (Tony Hale, from Veep) to court her. A newcomer to the community, Cyrus (John Gallagher, Jr., lately seen in The Miseducation of Cameron Post), presents a much more attractive potential suitor, something Sadie is especially furious about. The excellent main cast is rounded out by Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black), as Francis’s mother and Rae’s friend, a bartender who—like most of the characters here—means well but screws up.

This drama is played out in a damp town that could be anywhere in Western Washington, suitably accompanied by Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready’s score. Any danger that Sadie could go the way of an after school special disappears in Griffiths’ non-melodramatic style, which allows revelations about Sadie’s antisocial behavior to roll out in casually disturbing ways. This kid is smart, sarcastic, and bossy, and we want to root for her, except it isn’t that easy. In the remarkable performance by Sophia Mitri Schloss (who also starred in Lane 1974 by local director S.J. Chiro), Sadie’s determined stare could burn a hole through her perceived opponents. At times Griffiths slows the film down so we can simply watch Sadie think, which is appropriate for a movie about a girl who regularly—if not always accurately—observes others. The time allows us to get inside Sadie’s head, and the more you do, the sadder you get.


Oct. 19–25 | Northwest Film Forum | Not Rated

More in Film

Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly take the stage as Laurel and Hardy. 
Photo by Nick Wall/Sony Pictures Classics
‘Stan & Ollie’ and the Art of Playing Comedic Geniuses

Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly carry the story of legendary duo Laurel and Hardy.

Tomasz Kot and Joanna Kulig simmer as musicians in love in <em>Cold</em> <em>War</em>. Photo by Lukasz Bak
The Warm Musical Romance of ‘Cold War’

The gorgeous Polish tale of love behind the Iron Curtain would be a layup for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in a non-‘Roma’ year.

KiKi Layne (Tish) and Stephan James (Fonny) star in ‘If Beale Street Could Talk.’ Photo by Tatum Mangus/Annapurna Pictures
Meandering Along ‘Beale Street’

Barry Jenkins follows up ‘Moonlight’ with the textured racial mood piece, ‘If Beale Street Could Talk.’

Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson square off in ‘Aquaman.’ Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures
‘Aquaman’ Can’t Figure Out Which Wave to Surf

The latest DC Comic movie struggles to find a balance between keeping a straight face and having fun.

Emily Blunt takes on the role of the magical nanny in Mary Poppins Returns. 
Photo courtesy Walt Disney Studios
‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Boasts Nostalgic Musical Charm

The first soundtrack album I ever knew deeply was Mary Poppins, and… Continue reading

Spider-Folks from various dimensions come together in ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.’ Image courtesy Columbia Pictures/Sony
‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ Gets Caught in Its Own Web

The animated comic book gets stuck up on its multiverse fan service.

Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone battle for the queen’s attention in <em>The Favourite</em>. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima/Twentieth Century Fox
Black Comedy with a Regal Veneer

Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz bring catty rivalry to the queen’s court in ‘The Favourite.’

Yalitza Aparicio (left) makes her feature debut as Cleo, the central character in <em>Roma</em>. Photo by Carlos Somonte
‘Roma’ Makes an Epic Film Out of an Intimate Story

Alfonso Cuarón’s memories and vision guide the Spanish-language Oscar front-runner about a young housekeeper in 1970s Mexico.

Taron Egerton (Robin) and Jamie Foxx (John) take another crack at the classic in Robin Hood. Photo by Larry Horricks
The Arrows Miss Their Mark in ‘Robin Hood’

The legend’s latest rendition can’t overcome its modern smirky tone and bland lead actor.

Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen form the odd couple that carries Green Book. 
Courtesy Universal Pictures
Stellar Acting Makes ‘Green Book’ A Smooth Ride

Despite its cornball touches, Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen shine as a 1960s jazz pianist and his hired muscle.

Image by Drew Struzan/Disney
Holiday Movie Streaming Picks

Get in the festive spirit at home with these beloved seasonal films.

Viola Davis and Cynthia Erivo star in ‘Widows.’ Photo by Merrick Morton
Crime Doesn’t Pay Off in ‘Widows’

Steve McQueen’s feminist heist thriller stretches itself far too thin.