Low-key and sincere, this coming-of-age film fails to vividly convey the urgency of its characters' conflicts, perhaps because the young adults novel on which it's based worked better as a book. Believing that her half-white son needs to be exposed to both sides of his racial heritage, Native American Reno Howl (Sheila Goold), turns over teenage Jesse (Douglas Spain) to sympathetic Link Curren (John Cullum). Link, who lives in small-town Calamus Grove, Oregon, expects his all-American grandson Wade (Jason James Richter), a high school senior, to befriend Jesse, whose mischievous streak often lands him in hot water. Wade, Jesse and Wade's girlfriend, Lorna (Kate Hudson), become an inseparable trio, but their bond is tested when Lorna and Jesse develop adolescent feelings for each other. Lorna dreams of getting out of stifling Calamus Grove, but while Wade has a football scholarship in the offing, she has no resources. While Wade and Lorna debate their post-graduation future together, Jesse fends off local prejudice, especially from Frank Jukes (Matthew Glave). Aware that Frank treats his wife, Elaine (Linda Hawkins), badly, Jesse stubbornly lavishes attention on Elaine and her daughter. In another fit of rebelliousness, Jesse blows up the town's dam, which has trapped a species of endangered salmon. The dam may aid the Calamus economy, but it violates the respect for nature Jesse learned on the reservation. As he continues to test the limits of the town's tolerance, Jesse may be stirring up more trouble than he and his friends can handle. This well-meaning melodrama is done in by its oppressive air of political correctness and overdone symbolism, notably the trapped fish that represent teens stuck in small town America. An attractive cast instills energy into dysfunctional family archetypes and anti-bigotry cliches.
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: R
- Review: Low-key and sincere, this coming-of-age film fails to vividly convey the urgency of its characters' conflicts, perhaps because the young adults novel on which it's based worked better as a book. Believing that her half-white son needs to be exposed to both… (more)