The depths of despair

The film opens with a devastating quote from Jennifer Toth’s book “The Mole People” about those who eke out a living in New York City’s abandoned subway tunnels: “There are no children here. But we have adults as young as five.” 

A young girl named only “Little” (an affectingly natural Zhaila Farmer) and her junkie mother (Celine Held, co-director with Logan George) who have made a home of sorts in such a subterranean community, venture for Little’s first time out into the world above (to get a fix and to turn a few tricks to pay for it), and then struggle to find their way back. 

At first, I wrote this off as “poverty porn.” There was little story, and while the realism was impressive, a little of this goes a long way. But the mother’s love rang true, as did Little’s crushing vulnerability, and by the final scene, I was totally engaged and simply gobsmacked by the denouement. Not at all perfect, but worth a look. (185 min)