Sophia is a homeless woman who plays violin for audiences in the subway, eking out an existence among the urban grit and bustle of New York.
But one day her violin gets stolen, turning her world upside down and threatening her livelihood. Desperate and afraid, she goes in search of her most prized possession, but without her violin, she becomes truly invisible, unacknowledged by society — and is driven to desperate measures to regain any tenuous sense of belonging in the world.
Writer-director Jared Rosenthal has crafted a powerful short drama examining what it means to be deprived and live in the face of constant scarcity. As a homeless woman, Sophia has very little in her life, but the one thing she has, she holds dear — not just as a means of making any kind of living, but a way to bring beauty and dignity to her life. Her violin is her identity, her only way of being something beyond just homeless and invisible to the people around her.
With intimate handheld camerawork, the film is not afraid to delve into the grit and difficulty of being a homeless. But it also takes great pains to record the beauty that Sophia brings to the world, making for rich contrasts in not just the images but sounds. Sophia’s beautiful playing must compete against the clanging of the subway and sounds of the crowd — and the co-existence creates both dynamic and dramatic tension.
The film’s foundation, though, is a terrific acting performance from lead actor Jenna Williams, who captures both the consummate talent of a violinist and the desperation of a homeless woman teetering on the edge of society.
Raw and heartbreaking, this is a sensitive, considered snapshot of a turning point in one woman’s difficult life. With strong storytelling and craft, “Sophia” bestows honesty and empathy onto its subject, opening our eyes — and hopefully our hearts — to a character too often ignored by society, or shrouded in harmful stereotypes.