In the first 10 minutes of the haunting new documentary, “Jacinta,” now streaming on Hulu, most people from Maine will recognize someone like the title subject: a tough, funny and honest young Maine woman, born into a long line of addiction, mental illness and incarceration.
“Jacinta,” which was directed by Jessica Earnshaw and won top documentary honors at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2020, is a devastating, unflinching, deeply personal look at the ways in which those things can destroy a person’s chances of living a normal life.
The film takes you alongside Jacinta Hunt’s journey as she tries to maintain sobriety and not fall back into her long standing pattern of addiction, specifically to heroin. After leaving the Maine Correctional Center in Windham where she served eight months on drug charges, she initially does pretty well. She’s living in a sober house in Gorham. She goes to therapy and AA, she reconnects with her family, and she finally sees her 12-year-old daughter, Caylynn, who lives in New Hampshire with her paternal grandparents.
Then, she starts revisiting her old haunts in Lewiston. She starts thinking about leaving the sober house, which her preternaturally intelligent daughter cautions her against. You can see where this is heading. It’s not good.
She ends up back in prison on a charge of aggravated trafficking of scheduled drugs, drawing a seven-year sentence with all but four years suspended followed by three years of probation. She’s currently out in the community serving that probation, according to the Maine Department of Corrections. In an interview with ABC News on Oct. 8, she said she was six months sober, working three jobs, and advocating for incarcerated women and their families.
Interviews with her family — especially her mother, Rosemary, who at the start of the film is incarcerated alongside her daughter at the Maine Correctional Center — reveal how Jacinta got sucked into the cycle in the first place. Her mother, whom Jacinta idolizes despite being mostly raised by her father, became the model for her behavior, teaching her to fight and to steal, and to eventually start using drugs.
Jacinta doesn’t want that for her daughter. She doesn’t want that for herself. But the odds are stacked against her. The film does not look away from the bad choices she’s made, or the choices that were made for her, and the filmmaker, Earnshaw, does not moralize or have an agenda.
But it’s hard to watch without coming away with empathy and understanding for its subject, and hopefully for the many others who are in the same situation. You’re left with a little bit of hope that maybe, just maybe, she can break the cycle.