We’re often told that the American Dream requires hard work, entrepreneurial spirit and community engagement. In the Rainey family – the subject of this intimate, moving documentary – all the elements are there except the financial success that’s supposed to follow. Instead, Christopher ‘Quest’ Rainey, his wife Christine’a and their daughter PJ are just getting by.
Director Jonathan Olshefski shoots the family over eight years at home in Philadelphia, giving his film a startling closeness to its subjects. The Raineys allow him into hospital rooms and bedrooms, and speak frankly about their lives. Quest is a music producer but pays the bills by delivering leaflets, while his wife does shifts at a shelter for abused women.
The resulting account contains a quietly powerful political statement. The Raineys do everything they’re ‘supposed’ to do: working multiple jobs and setting curfews for PJ. If tragedy or hardship strikes, it must be an indictment of their environment, surely? Olshefski captures the frustration, resignation and determination that leaves you struck by this family – average in their concerns but extraordinary in their dedication to one another.