Reviews of this fine film have focused on how well it handles its central issue, drug addiction, and how suspenseful it is. I found it compelling for the suspense alone.
Lee Child has written that creating suspense is simple: ask or imply a question, and postpone giving the answer. Writer-director Peter Hedges seems to have learned this lesson well.
From the beginning, the film methodically implies its questions. A young man runs around a house peeking in windows. When his mom and sister return from church, he says his sponsor suggested he spend a weekend at home, on leave from rehab. If so, we wonder, why weren't they expecting him? Wouldn't he have called?
His mom is thrilled to see him. His sister is not. Why aren't they on the same page? We find out soon enough, but not before several more questions have been raised. Throughout the movie, Hedges's screenplay keeps us waiting for the next revelation.
Some critics fault the film for being a drama about a social issue that mimics the conventions of thrillers. I see it as a thriller that involves addiction, the way Hitchcock's North by Northwest, for instance, involves espionage.
The problem of addiction gives the film an extra dimension for fans of noir. Though we're pulling for the main characters all the way through, we sense that their fate is sealed, no matter what they do.