John Sayles’ Go For Sisters is a movie goers’ anti-dote for big-budget action thrillers; a character study that takes its time in allowing its stars, Edward James Olmos, LisaGay Hamilton and Yolanda Ross with appearances by Hector Elizondo and Evelina Fernandez, to reveal, in rich detail, their intertwining individual stories and underlying motivations in tension packed scenes that drive the movie to its conclusion.
Beyond the relationships, Sayles’ intimate story reveals how close to the surface of our daily lives runs the current of a turbulent world that one must sometimes traverse to find a family member. This is where LisaGay Hamilton’s character, Parole Officer Bernice, finds herself, searching for her son, Rodney, played by McKinley Belcher, III, a former soldier who has lost his way after returning from active duty.
Bernice enlists the help of Freddy Suarez, played by Edward James Olmos, a disgraced but savvy former detective, desperate in his own way, and Fontayne, Yolanda Ross’ character, an old friend and current parolee trying to survive in desperate personal and economic times.
Fontayne speaks of how desperation is a mental state that “excuses everything – everything you’re about to do, everything you’ve ever done”. As Bernice gets more and more desperate, her moral compass begins to waver, symbolically represented by a GPS compass that points the way while searching for her son. She must answer the question: how far will I go to find my son?
When Suarez leads the search across the border into Tijuana, his swarthy essence rules the screen. His voice alone carries the gravitas Sayles’ script was searching for. Olmos’ portrayal of an elderly detective with health problems yet known in the past as “The Terminator”, reaches deep, one foot in the Mexican culture, the other, firmly planted in the USA, making a significant point of how these worlds have became a mirror of each other in many ways.
As the search continues, Suarez and his cohorts must deal with a variety of characters, each more deeply involved with more and more heinous crimes. Every confrontation, revealing how far each will go in searching for Rodney, is in stark contrast to where their morals stood at the beginning of the story, especially Bernice. These characters are succinctly and convincingly played by Tessa Rose Ferrer, Jonathon Castellanos, Vanessa Martinez, Sal Lopez, Manny Montana, Jesse Borrego, Martha Higareda, Alejandro Cardenas, Omar Leyva, Dominic Colon, Jacob Vargas, Javier Calderon, Cesar Alejandro and others.
I was riveted to the screening, listening to each word, each sentence, while watching intently as the story unfolded. Subtle facial expressions gave rise to questions about what each of us carry every day, a moral compass. A sense of right and wrong, and whether it can be articulated or not. Each character had to decide where the line was drawn. I asked myself many times, where would I draw the line? Now the question is: Where would you draw the line?
Go For Sisters, which Olmos calls “One of my all time best”, opened last week in Los Angeles, with additional markets opening soon.