Love bonds powerfully between a mother and child. However, love’s ties can morph into curses. And if the mother can’t heal from past wounds that spawned an addictive nature, that love endangers all under its power.
Director Jessica Earnshaw’s documentary Jacinta explores the issues of heroin addition, generational emotional trauma, and destructive familial bonds. For her mesmerizing cinema vérité approach, Earnshaw won the Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award at this year’s Tribeca – the awards for the annual film festival were presented on Instagram due to the current coronavirus pandemic. Because Earnshaw received unparalleled access to her subjects, she exposes another side of addiction with acute sensibility.
Indeed, her intimate portrait of a family in crisis elicits audience empathy. Additionally, in Jacinta, Earnshaw presents a searing, yet poignant view of the underbelly of heroin addiction in small town America.
At the Maine Correctional Center where Jacinta and her mother Rosemary are incarcerated together, both recover from drug addiction. Because of the intense emotional deprivation Jacinta felt as a child, she hungers for her mother’s love and acceptance. Sadly, Rosemary preyed upon Jacinta’s need.
As a result, the emotionally and psychically damaged Rosemary involved Jacinta in her lifestyle of heroin addiction and crime. Following Rosemary in and out prison since she was a teenager, Jacinta attempts to forge a new life for herself. Finally, Earnshaw’s depiction of mother-daughter relationships identifies the problems each faces to become whole.
Exploring the relationships through archived photos and video clips, and family interviews, Earnshaw reveals Jacinta’s struggle with heroin addition. Also, through profound and emotional voice-over interviews, she chronicles Jacinta’s eventual realizations. She must confront her own wounds. Only then can she heal. Then finally, she might set herself free to maintain a positive relationship with her own daughter, Caylynn.
However, before this happens, Jacinta must let her relationship with her mother go. This painful realization comes at a great cost which nearly overwhelms her.
Earnshaw’s work as a first-time director is noteworthy in her ability to gain her subjects’ trust despite difficult challenges. For its authentic, searing picture of lives lost and found, the interviews ring with sadness and truth.