Since he days on the popular teen drama Dawson’s Creek Katie Holmes has carved out a nice film career for herself and now she’s dipping her feet into directing with All We Had. Aside from directing, she also stars in the movie playing a down-on-her-luck mother attempting to raise her teenage daughter Ruthie (Stefania Owen).
Rita (Holmes) and Ruthie are poverty stricken and constantly on the search for a new beginning. The search for a new start is constantly hindered by the lack of finances to support any sort of basic living necessities. They live out of the car, they dine and dash, but when the car breaks down they are out of all options. Rita is forced to confront the owner of the diner she just dashed from without pay for her meals. The kind restaurant owner Marty (Richard Kind) gives her a job. Rita and Ruthie’s bond is tested even further from that point forward.
There are some blink and you’ll miss them highlights in a film that for the most part lacks a clear focus. The casting of Owen is spot on, looking as if she could be Holmes’ daughter and the girl has some much needed charisma to her. . The mother-daughter relationship feels authentic, especially for the dire situation they are living in. Ruthie is very aware and understanding of the situation that she and her mother are in. She contributes as much as she can by cleaning the dishes at the restaurant and looks after her mother’s well being. Rita is a very flawed, yet honest individual. She’s misguided in part due to her alcohol addiction that leads to many bad decisions. At the heart of it, the mother and daughter need each other to survive, because overcoming dire obstacles on a daily basis is the only way they know how to survive.
The movie lacked a backstory to the characters. When we first see Rita and Ruthie, they are stumbling through life with no answers on how to make it any better. There is no explanation or insight into how they ended up in this poverty and for a movie that centers on their struggles it would certainly help to know how this all came about, because there always is a reason for such a thing. It makes you wonder how they even come about the money to buy gas for the car-All We Had needs to answer these fundamental questions to allow it to build a must needed narrative coherence. On a positive note, Holmes manages to make material personalizations to her character, such as when Rita always drinks out a plastic water cup with a blue mosaic. It’s a nice touch and depicts that the character has an attachment to an item that otherwise would serve irrelevant and go unnoticed.
All We Had focuses on the mother-daughter relationship, but lacks any sort of long-term direction or finality. Sure, maybe their story is meant to be told in the moment due to the characters’ inability to see a future, but for the viewer leaving with such ambiguity doesn’t justify majority of the events in the plot. Why should we care about a couple months of their lives if there isn’t any sort of payoff later on? The story moves too slowly, some of the scenes do have meaning, but not enough to warrant sitting through the the repeated events in their lives. Holmes manages to pull off a tough task of acting and directing, but doesn’t do it any sort of entertaining way. All We Had is a movie that I could have had less of as it ran its course too long.
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