Hold Me Down, a day-in-the-life portrait of a poor single mother in the Bronx, has some tender moments but ultimately falls flat emotionally.

Hold Me Down is a poignant day-in-the-life story of Chastity (Tianna Allen), a 19-year-old single mother living in the Bronx, who works as a stripper to support her infant daughter.

The opening credits tell us this is a true story, which can make it difficult viewing at times. But ultimately it is not a new story, and the script, written by Swedish actor/director Niclas Gillis, often descends into cliché.

Even without anything particularly original to say, there was potential for the film to work as a character study – something which would have been valuable, given the lack of on-screen representation for characters like Chastity. However, we never really get enough insight about her for this to be the case.

Gillis, who also directed the film, clearly has sympathy for his protagonist, but there is a sense that he doesn’t really understand her or her world. It is hard not to feel that perhaps this wasn’t his story to tell.

The strongest aspect of the film is the mood it creates. Chastity and her daughter’s environment is bleak, which Gillis communicates well and without judgement. However, the darkness the film is submerged in feels at times like an obstacle in getting to know the characters.

Allen gives a solid performance as Chastity, but Hold Me Down still falls flat emotionally. Gillis clearly has potential as a director, but it feels as though he is still finding his voice.

★★☆☆☆

You can watch Hold Me Down via Vimeo, and on the Nordic International Film Festival’s website.