Shot concurrently with a "raising awareness" documentary on child prostitution in Southeast Asia (by the tellingly named Priority Films), Holly snatches images out of soiled Cambodian red-light districts, slips figures on sex trafficking into its screenplay, and numbers a reformer heroine and unrepentant pederast evildoer among its cast of characters. The titular Holly (Thuy Nguyen) is an abandoned preadolescent Vietnamese with her virginity up on the auction block; Patrick (Ron Livingston), the Westerner's entrée into her universe, is an unmoored American expat with neither past nor future who suddenly grabs onto the idea of saving her. Livingston initially seems unable to shoulder his share of the movie—his pale, undistinguished handsomeness suggests something undercooked, and as a boozy card sharper, he doesn't exude enough attrition—but shades of ambiguity gradually suggest depths beneath his blankness. And though the storytelling is haphazard, artistry often transcends mere good intentions. Director Guy Moshe scavenges color from the torn fringes of Phnom Penh, and the composer Tôn-Thât Tiêt provides a spare score, laying bleary sadness over the art-house muckraking.
Confronting the horror: Livingston (left) with the late Chris Penn.
Opens at Meridian, Fri., Nov. 30. Rated R. 114 minutes.