Written and directed by lead actress Andi Morrow, in a small Appalachian town crippled by opioid addiction, a young drug dealer is coming to terms with the life she’s chosen. Also starring: Dara Jade Tiller, Levi Krevinghaus, Cindy Ralston, Cynthia D. Perry, Jackson Pyle, Amanda Lindsey McDonald, Dan Tippen and Timothy Sean Worley.
America’s epidemic of opioid addiction is well documented, it’s appeared across numerous films, documentaries and television series, destroying the lives of those addicted and the people around them. Given that the film is tackling such a hefty subject, handling it sensitively is key and thankfully that’s exactly what it does, often films like this can come across as forced or insincere but Morrow and the cast have done a good job of keeping things genuine. Often in film, drug dealers are portrayed as kingpins, living it large driving fancy cars and threatening people for a living, but Pusher takes things down quite a few notches into the life of a small-town drug dealer, who most likely began doing so because of her limited options. The film opens with an acoustic guitar and sprawling landscapes of farm lands and barns, it couldn’t hit the small town theme any harder, it’s the ultimate recipe and works like a charm to set the scene.
Even without too much of an introduction to Brittany, Morrow presents the character in such a way to quickly throw out the window any thoughts of her as a callous or greedy type which helps to give her a more sympathetic side. As she starts to contemplate the negative consequences of her actions, on those she’s supplying to, it’s clear that she’s conflicted and though wanting to carry on her line of work, is remorseful of the harm it’s causing. Living in such a small town, Brittany can’t escape those consequences and even though they may not know she’s the person supplying the pills, she’s forced to face the family of those addicts and see how much damage is being done. However, it’s presented in a way that doesn’t feel over the top or as if the drama is being thrown in your face, it’s quietly sad and while it doesn’t quite reach a more heart-breaking level, the fact it feels genuine at all, is what matters. Morrow handles the task well, it’s not over emotive but she manages to give the sense of her character’s internal moral struggle while remaining understated.
Although, despite that message coming through, it doesn’t have that much to say overall and is lacking more resolute actions to hammer it home. The directorial, writing and cinematography styles have been kept simple and modest which fits in well with the story they’re trying to tell and they avoided the potential issue of having a score sitting on top that would have messily cut through its sincerity. Pusher tackles the issue of addiction in a respectful way and sends the right message of how our actions can directly and indirectly affect others lives, it’s just missing a more decisive ending or darkness to reach the depth its looking for.