Behind Closed Doors (2008)

DVD Review – Written for RAF News Apr 2015

Set in Council Bluffs Iowa 1976, Behind Closed Doors looks at three young sisters and how together they overcome a harrowing situation and find solace in the most unlikely of places.


The opening music, paired with a glimpse inside the house where the girls live, is enough to tell us that the story being told has a dark underpinning. Written and directed by Lori Petty and based on events in her own life, the film carries a weighty seriousness that prevents the film from ever being enjoyable, but allows for some good performances.

Jennifer Lawrence is Agnes – the eldest daughter to a drug addicted prostitute, trying to take charge of the family and keep her sisters out of the ‘poker house’ where her mother’s clients and pimp freely roam.

Agnes is based on a 14 year old Petty, toughened beyond her young age, though unbelievable at times. Lawrence is commanding in her first leading role, which seems to have lead naturally to her matured, bread winning sister role in Winter’s Bone. The best moments of this film are caught in the tension between mother and daughter. Selma Blair is impressive as the girls’ mother – a twisted stumbling mess buried beneath platinum highlights and panda eyes.

Meanwhile sisters Cammie (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Bee (Sophia Bairley) both find themselves in amongst local characters in some hardly glamorous settings of their small town. Cammie exchanges recyclable bottles for sweets with the local homeless crowd, and Bee is put up in a bar for the day with an eccentric regular.

Despite the girls’ chin-up-and-smile attitude, theirs is clearly a tragic situation and all efforts to appear otherwise appear contrived or stooped in sentiment – which is understandable considering the personal nature of this film. The undeniable accomplishment of Behind Closed Doors is in showing the dark beginning from which film-maker Petty has arisen.

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