Emily The Criminal (2022)

Director: John Patton Ford

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Theo Rossi, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Gina Gershon, Jonathan Avigdori

Struggling to pay off $70,000 in student debt, Emily (Aubrey Plaza) has limited work prospects due to a minor criminal record. This is exemplified in the opening where she attends a job interview, only for her hopes to be dashed when the employer deceptively brings up her arrest record. Her attempts to move forward are shattered by the past, leaving her to take work making quick cash as part of a credit card scam. With the promise of more jobs coming, Emily gets deeper into the criminal underworld.

Making his feature debut, writer/director John Patton Ford crafts an unnerving thriller which explores the American Dream in a modern context. It may be as subtle as a bloody nose, but there's a righteous fury within about the unfair system which leaves this generation trapped with overwhelming debt and struggling to make a living. When seemingly ideal roles are actually unfair practices packaged up in buzzwords and inspirational stories, the character's dreams remain as out of reach as being paid a fair wage.

All Emily wants to do is make the art which brings her joy, yet crippling debt prevents her from making the experiences she dreams of. She's instead forced to take an insecure role where shifts change last-minute, and her objections are met with the employer daring her to unionize, knowing it isn't a possibility. Emily's frustrations are easily felt, making it understandable why she dives into this underworld which offers the support she's been missing.

In the titular role, Plaza tremendously portrays Emily as somebody whose optimism is repeatedly grinded down by the unjust system. The experiences instil a hardened determination to not let others take from her, leaving her with regrets of not going far enough. Her introduction to the scam is Youcef, charmingly played by Theo Rossi, who intends to fulfil his own desires despite familial tensions.

Throughout the film appear tense sequences, each capturing Emily's determination to rise above appearing obstacles while taking audiences on a relentless ride. From a sale gone wrong to an eight-minute countdown, they're part of this tale about how working yourself to the bone isn't enough unless the system changes. It's a slickly crafted debut that impresses, and holds much intrigue regarding where Ford will go next.

Emily The Criminal is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from 16th January