• Warning: Spoilers
    WELCOME TO THE RILEYS is the debut film from Jake Scott, the son of director Ridley Scott, and this drama is a painful meditation on the familiar themes of grief, loss, guilt and redemption. This is an assured debut from Scott junior, who shows himself to be comfortable in dealing with character driven dramas exploring emotionally charged material, more so than his famous father and uncle who are more at home with big budget spectacles full of action and special effects.

    Doug (The Sopranos' James Gandolfini) and Louise (Melissa Leo) Riley have been married for thirty years, but the death of their teenage daughter in a car crash has driven a coldness between them. Louise has rarely left the house since, while Doug deals with his grief in privacy. When Doug attends a convention in New Orleans he meets Mallory (Kristen Stewart), a teenage stripper cum prostitute on a path to self-destruction. Something in her strikes a paternalistic chord in Doug and he decides to help her clean up her life, whether she appreciates his efforts or not. His decision also helps to heal the rift in his relationship with Louise.

    Scott draws excellent performances from his leads. Gandolfini has an imposing presence, but here he tones down his more aggressive style, and comes across as a more sympathetic character. Leo is good as the fragile Louise, who slowly takes a chance and begins to emerge from her self-imposed withdrawal, and she adds a touch of humour to the film. And Stewart is again a revelation with a feisty and strong performance as the independent, foul-mouthed and brash Mallory. The phenomenal success of the Twilight franchise has given Stewart the freedom to seek out more gritty and edgy smaller films and challenging roles that enable her to flex her acting muscles (Adventureland, The Runaways, etc).

    Scott also makes good use of locations in the French Quarter to add atmosphere. Welcome To The Rileys is the type of gritty, edgy low budget independent film that struggles to reach a broad audience or gain a commercial cinematic release, but is nonetheless a rewarding experience well worth checking out.