Many of the characters go to great lengths to communicate and even empathize with each other but, somehow, end up much more concerned about themselves than the people to whom they're reaching out. A brilliant example of this is when Marcia tries to comfort Edwin after an emotional blow-out with his brother. The two flirt with the possibility of a relationship, but Edwin pulls away out of loyalty and responsibility towards Pinky, and a frustrated Marcia cries out: "Well what good does that do me?!"
There are several screaming matches in Our Lady of 121st Street and yet they never seem forced or excessive, thanks to Hoffman's tight direction and relentless pacing; every single shout is motivated and helps to build dramatic tension. Hoffman is equally adept at controlling the pauses and prolonged moments of silent action that allow for the emotional shifts occurring in the characters.