Simplistic, formulaic and painfully sweet, this gratingly didactic tale about the price of keeping confidences is buoyed by Evan Rachel Wood's lovely performance as 14-year-old Emily, a gravely beautiful violin student who's unusually sympathetic to the troubles of younger children. It's summertime, and while Emily's best friends are away at camp, she's at home preparing for an audition she hopes will land her a spot in a well-regarded local youth orchestra. Things are hectic on the home front because Emily's parents are expecting a new baby, but Emily makes time to practice, take classes with her supportive teacher, Pauline (Vivica A. Fox), and preside over the secular confessional she runs in her back yard. Emily's altruistic hobby allows neighborhood kids own up to the little transgressions they've concealed from everyone else breaking a piece from dad's ornate chess set, keeping a forbidden kitten, stealing candy bars, impersonating an older sister in an online chat room secure in the knowledge that Emily will never tell. Emily's compassion is, of course, born of the fact that she's got something to hide: Emily is adopted and, for reasons that are eventually revealed, doesn't want anyone to know. Emily strikes up a friendship with one penitent, 11-year-old neighbor Philip (Michael Angarano), and indulges in a brief flirtation with Philip's dreamboat older brother (David Gallagher), who's scheduled to spend most of the summer away at tennis camp. And then things get complicated, as they always do. Apparently harmless secrets cause hurt feelings, damage friendships and divide siblings, and Emily reluctantly concludes that in the long run, it's better to tell the truth. Make a note. Directed by Bair Treu and written by young-adult novelist Jessica Barondes, this preachy little tale wears its positive message and wholesome values on its sleeve, and while you can't fault its intentions, it's crafted rather than imagined. Angarano and Wood make Philip and Emily feel like real youngsters, but the rest of the kids (not to mention their parents) are all character business and no actual character, which makes the fact that their problems are object lessons all the more apparent. The film is dull going, even for the pre-adolescents at whom it's aimed, and feels far longer than it actually is.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: PG
- Review: Simplistic, formulaic and painfully sweet, this gratingly didactic tale about the price of keeping confidences is buoyed by Evan Rachel Wood's lovely performance as 14-year-old Emily, a gravely beautiful violin student who's unusually sympathetic to the tr… (more)