To Leslie

Where I Watched it: iTunes

English Audio Description?: No

It may surprise you that this out of left field Oscar nominee that made 27K at the box office from something called “Momentum Films” doesn’t have audio description. if it does surprise you, you’ve probably been to an independent film festival and seen films without distribution have accessibility. Especially some incredibly low budget films that wind up at film festivals geared specifically to the blind and visually impaired community, where the films you’ve likely never heard of are made my blind and visually impaired talent. So, no, Leslie doesn’t get a pass because it didn’t make money. That track should have been made when it went to South By Southwest.

But, since I’m on an Oscar binge, i of course had to review this film. I’m a bit annoyed at the lack of accessibility, because there are these really long sequences of no dialogue. i don’t know what’s on screen, but I know the story around those moments is compelling as hell. To Leslie had the makings of a film that could have ended up in my top 10 if I could see, or if i at least had audio description. i know my style, and this is it.

I’ve written and YouTubed about this film already a lot. The Oscars investigating this film when Diane Warren continues to get oscar nominations for movies no one saw is problematic. To continue to allow actors to run in categories they don’t belong in, either because they feel like it, or the studio is submitting them to play the better odds, is also problematic. not having a serious conversation about whether or not Michelle Williams is a lead, or Brendan Gleeson really is supporting, or allowing Carey Mulligan’s FYC failed campaign for Supporting Actress are things we SHOULD talk about. not a small film breaking through with a terrific performance.

Yes, the only reason Andrea is here is because the director’s wife is a member of the actor’s branch, and started pushing people to see it. But once that ball got rolling, people got to see that Andrea actually gives a terrific performance. in fact, so do Marc maron and Allison Janney. This film deserved an actual Oscar campaign, and equal footing from day one. So do a lot of films and performances over the last few years that were “too small” to tilt windmills at Oscar campaigns with millions of dollars invested. That’s why Mass never got nominated, or why Dale Dickey and Wes Studi were ignored this year for A Love Song, or Brian D’Arcy James for The Cathedral. And if we’re being really honest, it’s probably why Decision To Leave isn’t in the International Feature race. Had Amazon or netflix been running that campaign, we’d be in a very different place.

I’m not mad at this film getting nominated. it’s inspirational, and as Michelle Yeoh put it, if it was easy, it would happen more often. It’s hard for an actress like Andrea Riseborough to break into the Oscar race in a tiny film, but her fellow actors came through. hopefully, they will continue to do that in the future and ignore “narratives” and Oscar campaigns. Watch as much as you can, and vote based on that.

Andrea’s performance is raw. it’s broken. It’s just so over the top demanding in every frame, you can’t help but notice her. It’s easily one of the best of the year, even without audio description. hell, Marc Maron is one of the best of the year too, as the hotel manager with a heart. It made me miss the hell out of Glow.

I rarely recommend a film without audio description, and this one is a tough one to do that for. I would love to be able to, but it just made me happy enough. The truth is, there are huge gaps where a blind person is just sitting there imagining what could be on screen. I was able to follow it, and while my grade for this film is good, it would have been better with accessibility, and I’d be able to tell my community they should watch it.

I really want to tell blind people to watch this anyway, but my gut instinct tells me there was just too high of a percentage of establishing shots, where you don’t know what the camera is looking at or where you are. It’s a damn shame. Watch at your own peril, I guess.

Final Grade: A-

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