‘Jacinta’ Review: When Going Home Isn’t Easy

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Jessica Earnshaw’s moving documentary follows a young mother’s difficulty returning to the outside world after spending time in prison.

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There are moments in “Jacinta” in which producer, director, and cinematographer Jessica Earnshaw goes deep, rather than broad, on the subject of addiction, crime, and imprisonment as a family legacy. Her main focus is on her title subject, a likable, unreliable, 20-something drug offender serving the last bit of his sentence at a Maine Correctional Center—where his mother, Rosemary, is also an inmate. There are three years left for mother’s service. Upon Jacinta’s release, their parting—which is as much home to them as anywhere else—is within after sharing. What hangs over the proceedings isn’t just the question of whether Jacinta can escape heroin, re-establish a relationship with her preteen daughter, Kaelin, and stay out of prison. This consciously or not, she really wants.

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Ms. Earnshaw doesn’t throw us any bouquets: the mood is very deliberately calm, albeit somewhat triumphant. It’s as if the film itself is holding its breath—and so are the filmmakers: there have been revelations about Jacinta’s childhood that apparently shocked the director as well as shocked us; You can hear it in his off-camera voice. Ms. Earnshaw doesn’t intrude, but she is there, and her presence is certainly influencing the action in some ways (the criminal justice system certainly behaves itself when there’s a camera around). But Jacinta herself is so open, honest and beyond shame that the relationship between the subject and the director is like a ghost story in itself.

No, “Jacinta” is not a Frederick Wiseman-style fly-on-the-wall observational study of a recurrent abuser. But its description of the people around Jacinta is enough that a viewer is forced into the role of the armchair psychologist and social worker.

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Kaylin, a remarkably intelligent and self-contained tween, has lived with her grandparents, John and Wanda, for years, who seem like model citizens, especially in contrast to the Rosemary train wreck. That they have a son, Kailin’s father, who is “currently imprisoned”, as Wanda delicately puts it, would indicate problems in their household. But we haven’t been told much about that. And the landscape of Lewiston, Maine, where much of the film takes place, seems like a breeding ground for misadventure. Everyone else knows; Everyone knows who has the drugs; Surrounded by tough times and boredom, there is nothing more to do in New England Mill Town.

Throwing someone as weak, or weak, as throwing Jacinta back into the surroundings is a disaster, perched on a cliff, and the subsequent rise and fall—and how closely and medically Ms Earnshaw treated them. – making “Jacinta” somewhat rare. Its untold conclusions, too, are the stuff of nightmares: When Robert Frost wrote that “home is where you gotta get there, / They got to get you in,” he wasn’t thinking of the penal system. But the audience can be good.

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