Winning the lottery can change a person’s life for the better or ruin it beyond repair. In To Leslie, Leslie (Andrea Riseborough) wins $190,000 in a local West Texas lottery, funding her party lifestyle. Leslie wastes the money on drugs and alcohol. Destitute and homeless, Leslie reunites with her estranged son, who agrees to help her only if she quits alcohol. 

To Leslie is loosely based on the life of Ryan Binaco’s late mother

Ryan Binaco was loosely inspired by his late mother when writing the script for To Leslie. Leslie, the main character, is a dramatized version of Binaco’s mom. Michael Morris told The National Board of Review:

“It’s important to note that Leslie, as embodied by Andrea [Riseborough] in the film, is not Ryan’s mother. Ryan wrote this script to try and understand his mother and the pain she dealt with, often by herself, and to work through the pain he had growing up without his mother for much of his young life.”

Andrea Riseborough, who’s gained acclaim for her portrayal of Leslie, told Deadline that Ryan wrote the script from the perspective of a ‘child who watched their mother experience the very same thing’. “It’s as if Ryan has given his mother, who was from a very different place and background, a chance at redemption,” Andrea said. 

Every person interviewed about the script points out that Leslie is not a true depiction of Ryan’s mother. For instance, Andrea told The Boston Herald:

“Of course. she’s not Ryan’s mother by any means. She is a reflection and an embodiment of her and far better to delve as deeply as you can into the heart, the pain, the authenticity, the terror of who the person is than to hold back and create some sort of hybrid representation of what humans can be.”

The actor said playing Leslie felt very special. “And Ryan, our screenwriter, is a brilliant writer who’d written a screenplay about something very personal to him, about his own mother. That felt very special,” she told Parade