Go for Sisters

Few male writer-directors have explored female characters more ardently than John Sayles (Passion Fish, Sunshine State, Casa de los Babys), and this leisurely mystery features some of his best. A no-nonsense parole officer (LisaGay Hamilton) recruits an old friend hardened by the streets (Yolonda Ross) to help track down her grown son, who’s been kidnapped south of the Mexican border and may have been transporting Chinese aliens into the U.S. The two women fell out in high school, but their tenuous relationship grows stronger after they hire an over-the-hill private investigator (Edward James Olmos) and the three of them venture into dangerous situations in Tijuana and Mexicali. Sayles’s novelistic approach to screenwriting can yield rich, simple dialogue, though his insistence on editing his own films invariably works against him; this one slows to a crawl near the end, stopping too frequently to accommodate the women’s colloquies, before he pulls it back together with a satisfying climax.