21 August 2014 | MartinHafer
It all worked for me because the acting and writing were so darn good.
Currently, "Go For Sisters" has a surprisingly low overall rating of 6.1 on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). While this sounds respectable, a 6.1 would generally indicate that the film is average at best*--and this film is far from average in every way. To me, it's a wonderful example of a movie that features really, really exceptional acting coming from some less than famous faces--faces that deserve to be getting more attention.
"Go For Sisters" is a film written and directed by John Sayles--a famous name in Hollywood. It's unusual because one of its producers is Leonard James Olmos (of "Miami Vice" fame)--who also is one of the stars of the film. He did a wonderful job in the film, however, I would hate for him to get all the glory. After all, LisaGay Hamilton and Yolanda Ross (hardly household names) were wonderful as the two female leads and I would LOVE to see more of them in the future. Sure, they may not look and sound like Hollywood's idea of stars, but they really did great jobs--particularly Hamilton. I love seeing 'real women' in films--women who are not the usual cookie cutter starlets but who seem like REAL people! And Hamilton and Ross sure seemed real.
The film begins in a parole office. Bernice (Hamilton) is a parole officer who seems to know her stuff and is all business with her clients. However, her new assignment is a tough one--Fontayne (Ross) turns out to be someone Bernice grew up with and knew very well long ago. Now, years later, they are on the opposite sides of the fence. And, because it would not be appropriate to have an old acquaintance as a client, Bernice plans on transferring Fontayne to another officer. However, something comes up and Bernice decides, for once, to go against her better judgment. This is because her estranged son has just disappeared and she needs answers--especially since he might be dead or wanted for murder! She MUST know where he might be and what happened to him. And so she asks Fontayne for some help. After all, Fontayne's been around and might know some people who might know some people... Well, after a while, the two spend more time together and naturally become closer and start to talk about old times. And, it turns out that they were more than just casual acquaintances and now Fontayne seems like she's willing to help not just because Bernice is a parole officer but because perhaps she cares and is trying to put her life as a junkie behind her...perhaps.
At this point, Bernice is definitely treading into dangerous territory working with a friend/parolee to locate her son. However, the trail gets even murkier more convoluted when the women soon find themselves in contact with an ex-cop (Olmos). This is a guy who was thrown off the force and they don't know whether or not they can trust him--but they don't seem to have much choice if they want to find the missing man. And, to make things worse, the trail soon heads out of the country--to the infamous city of Tijuana, Mexico--a place where law and order have all but vanished. What will happen next? And, most importantly, will Bernice and Yolanda come out of all this alive? And, just how far is Bernice willing to go to locate her son?
I noticed that a few folks felt that the script was a bit far-fetched when they reviewed the film on IMDb. Perhaps it is a bit, but I found myself willing to believe it for several good reasons. As a retired social worker and psychotherapist (as well as school teacher), I used to work very closely with parole and probation officers. They are VERY human--some very professional, some very unprofessional and some a bit crazy! So, an officer bending rules is something I could easily believe. Also, as a parent, I could see a scared mother willing to risk everything to find her only son. But, most importantly, I could believe it because Bernice was such a believable character. Sayles did a nice job of writing the character and directing Hamilton--but Hamilton herself was just terrific in this leading role. While she has quite a few credits to her name, with acting like this, she deserves much more attention and opportunities. It also didn't hurt having Ross and Olmos supporting her--as the trio seemed very believable and the three really knew their craft.
The bottom line is that too few film emphasize what I like in films-- great acting and well-written and believable characters. While this film doesn't have a fancy special effects or the glitz of many Hollywood films, it is well made and quite tense. It's a film I strongly recommend--even if the story might sound a bit hard to believe. I sure believed it and am thrilled that the film just came out this week with Netflix. Grab a copy.
*IMDB scores are weighted a bit high--so I've noticed that a 6.1 is equal to about a 5.0 on many other scales.