- Movie Rating -

Topside (2022)

| March 25, 2022

Topside opens in a very specific place with some very specific people.  They are New York’s homeless and they have built themselves a make-shift home in the dark abandoned subway tunnels using whatever old debris they could find – lamps, mattresses, plywood, doors.  We meet some of the people who live there, specifically a junkie named Nikki and her five-year-old daughter who try to live as normal a life as they can, foraging for food and occasionally hiding from city officials who want to force them out.

The little girl becomes our focus, and most of the way, our point of view.  She has an appearance so disheveled that, at first, we don’t even register that she is a girl.  It is impossible not to feel something for her in these surroundings.  The first time we see her, she is standing in a shaft of light looking upward like a religious postcard.  We’re not surprised to learn that she has never seen the outside world.

Nikki is constantly told that she needs to get Little out of the tunnels and up into the world, but she is reluctant because she fears losing her daughter to the system.  When they are finally chased out of the tunnels, Little sees the world for the first time.

What transpires in Topside reminded me of The Room, another story about a mother trying to eek out a meager living in a tight living space, and Little reminded me greatly of Hushpuppy, the hero of Beasts of the Southern Wild, only without the resourceful tools of survival.  Nikki and Little are forced up into the noisy world of New York, trying to find some way, some avenue other than going to the authorities.  For fear of losing Little, Nikki goes to her drug dealer and when that goes bad, she flees into the city.

I wish I could say that the second half of the film was as compelling as the first.  The problem is that once, filmmakers Logan George and Celine Held get things rolling, they aren’t really sure where to take it.  Most of the movie takes place from Little’s point of view as she sees the world for the first time (it hurts her eyes and ears) but the movie loses that tight perspective in the third act when Nikki and Little are separated and we spend the rest of the movie dealing with her hysteria.

I have nothing bad to say about the intent, only the execution.  Nikki makes a decision at the end that I’m not 100% sure about.  The movie ends on a rather abrupt note that I think will frustrated more people than it will move.  Topside is a generally well-made movie that, like it’s characters, is looking for a direction and doesn’t find one.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2022) View IMDB Filed in: Drama