June was once a known counter-culture figure, but that was a decade ago. She now lives alone in her South Bronx apartment, having all but cut herself off from the outside world. It's the notorious "Summer of Sam" and June only has to look out of her window to see the violence escalating with the brutal summer heat. The city is on a knife's edge, a pressure-cooker about to explode into the incendiary 1977 New York blackout riots.

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It's a startling portrayal of a woman barely holding it together - for the first half hour, the film feels just one or two crises away from Repulsion. Watts, however, is never not in control, keeping Leigh's simmering hysteria just short of the boiling point. Stuck in place yet always in motion, she creates a woman who paces a cage built of self-loathing and shame. Her emotional credibility is essential to the film's success; even though Leigh's personal demons seem real, the facts of her family history sometimes feel false, a crazy quilt of disconnected details. She's the granddaughter of a famous opera singer - who lived in a tenement in the South Bronx? A paranoid recluse - who impulsively hires a male escort from a newspaper ad? No movie should ask you to believe more than one improbable thing yet The Wolf Hour keeps the demands coming. But Watts remains relentlessly watchable, and the film - which, with its single-set locale, could feel stage-bound - starts bringing other, equally complicated people on screen

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