Any film the has a DVD release where the director basically begs the viewer to watch the entire thing and not shut it off in disgust before the film begins could be thought of as a sign that maybe you shouldn't watch the film at all. In this case, you would miss out on one fantastic movie.
The story of a young girl whose mother chokes to death and is then taken by her drug addicted father to his mother's abandoned farmhouse in Texas where he then dies of an overdose shortly after arriving is not an easy film to get through. Should all films be light fluff escapism, though? I think most serious film goers would agree the answer is no.
The young girl has to survive on her own in a nightmarish situation she can not really understand or emotionally get her head around. In her mind, her father is just sleeping off another drug hangover and she begins to have conversations with the heads of dolls she puts on her fingers who give us some insight as to what is going on in her own head and gives her the feeling that she has friends and is not alone and afraid. As time goes on, she befriends some of the eccentric neighbours on the area who use taxidermy to preserve the body of the girl's father (which they also had done before to their own mother). The young male neighbour, who is mentally impaired, thinks there is a monster shark stalking victims throughout the fields of Texas and means to destroy it with some dynamite he has hidden in his bedroom. The shark is, in reality (if you can separate reality from fantasy anymore at this point), the nightly train passing though and in the end he uses the explosives to destroy it - causing a huge tragedy. A woman finds the little girl at the site of the train wreck and mistakenly thinks she is saving a victim of it when she actually saving her from a train wreck of a completely different kind.
Though the film was not universally panned it did get very sharp criticism. Only 9 theatres picked it up for viewing so financially it was a disaster and many thought it was a sure sign the Gilliam had killed his own career by making such a terrible film.
This is not a disgusting film revelling in the tortured life of an innocent little girl but rather a twisted but beautifully done look at how a small child can persevere in the most horrifying of situations though her imagination and innate mental stamina. It is not a movie everyone can deal with but if you can, it's well worth watching.