Daisoujou’s review published on Letterboxd:
Letterboxd Season Challenge 2018-19
Week 14: "I've been meaning to get to it..." Week
This movie feels so natural -- those child actors are amazing, and so is Bria Vinaite, particularly impressive for having never acted in a film before. Having seen so many films about poverty, it's nice to see one through the lens of childhood innocence. I'm sure it's been done somewhere before, but it helps it stand out nonetheless. The kids just want to play, and are at an age where their parents are still perfect in their eyes, but there are so many tragic things happening around them.
I made the mistake when I went to watch this of glancing at the reviews where it was streaming and they're full of such vitriol: hate for the "trailer trash" characters, the "bratty kids," and the "welfare abusers" (which, uhh, isn't even part of the movie, so there's some interesting projection on that person's part). The parenting here clearly isn't good and yes the kids do some shitty things because they were unfortunately born into this situation but people really hate the poor and it's probably unfortunate that this film has realistic flawed characters instead of just making everyone a suffering saint so that maybe these people could have gotten something out of it. Halley clearly is a bad mother in a lot of ways (and just kind of terrible in general to the people she should be appreciating, like Willem Dafoe's character who keeps bailing her out of situations), but it's kind of sad that people view this with such black and white thinking. What I saw was a terribly unprepared woman barely capable of taking care of herself still treating her daughter as well as she could, by her admittedly slightly warped standards, who is no doubt immature and making things worse for herself but also clearly a victim of the circumstances too.
In summary: This movie is really good. Becoming a parent adds a huge heap of responsibility and emotional and financial strain that tons of people aren't ready to handle. That doesn't make it ok when they fail their children, but calling them the "scum of the earth" (direct quote) when they are actually making an effort at it makes you probably worse than they are.