Go for Sisters

With Go For Sisters, John Sayles continues his recent string of engaging, if underwhelming, stories that merge small personal narratives with larger political issues. The film blends several of Sayles favorite subjects: women, African-Americans, and the odd symbiotic relationship between the US and Mexico. His main characters are two high school friends who reunite in middle age after taking very different paths. When the film opens, Fontayne, played by Yolonda Ross (Antwone Fisher, I'm Not There) is a recovering drug addict struggling to restart her life after release from jail. Her new parole officer turns out to be Bernice, played by LisaGay Hamilton (Jackie Brown, Beloved, Take Shelter). The straitlaced Bernice needs her street-smart old friend when she embarks on an uncertain quest to track down her missing son. This shady adventure takes them across the Mexican border after they enlist the help of a near-blind ex-LAPD detective played by Edward James Olmos (Stand and Deliver, Blade Runner, 2 Guns).

The film is at its best when the two women are just talking with each other. This is a dialogue-heavy picture and, like most of Sayles’ movies, too many of the themes are conveyed with words rather behavior and actions. But anyone who still goes to Sayles’ movies (and looks forward to them as I do) knows to expect a film in which what the characters say is going to be more intriguing than what they do. Sayles is a one-of-a-kind filmmaker--clearly capable of crafting exquisitely structured traditional screenplays (he is a go-to script doctor for Hollywood blockbusters), but when working on his own, small-scale pictures is far more interested in the internal struggles of his characters. His plots often seem like an excuse to bring groups of people together, and his characters, though usually specific and multi-dimensional individuals, often feel like they speak for an entire class of people that doesn’t often get to have a say in cinema. I point this out not a criticism so much as an observation. After all, we don’t get many movies about the lives of working-class black women in their late 30s, so its hard not to feel like these women are standing for a large sorority of underrepresented people. Hamilton and Ross deliver Sayles’ dialogue with authenticity and grace; creating wholly credible women whose lives and backstories we can sense and understand. Olmos’ Freddy Suárez is a broader, more comedic role, but his style of acting complements the two leads rather than upstaging or clashing with them. Go For Sisters takes on real-world social issues through an understated yet nuanced character study. Like Sayles’ best pictures, it puts human faces on political concepts.

Directed by John Sayles
Produced by Peter Bobrow, Edward James Olmos, and Alejandro Springall

Written by John Sayles

With: LisaGay Hamilton, Edward James Olmos, Yolonda Ross, Hilary Barraford, Mahershala Ali, Harold Perrineau, Michael Piznarski, Mary Portser, Don Harvey, Brent Jennings, and Isaiah Washington

Cinematography: Kat Westergaard
Editing: John Sayles
Music: Mason Daring

Runtime: 123 min
Release Date: 11 March 2013
Aspect Ratio: 1.78 : 1