The spirit of Flannery O'Connor hangs heavy over this grim tale of good and evil in the backwoods of North Carolina, but the film is actually an adaptation of a novel by Canadian writer Leon Rooke. Early one morning, while hunting squirrels in the misty
green hills of rural North Carolina, Raymond Toker, the youngest member of the God-forsaken Toker clan #151; and the only one in the family who's both alive and out of jail — stumbles across a newborn baby, swaddled in a bloody shirt and left to die under a laurel bush. Raymond takes the infant back to town, but the local
women have enough troubles — and kids — of their own. Only Josephine Priddy (Cara Seymour), a fading beauty who's getting ready to leave town for good, seems to care, but she's really interested in the strong, silent and slightly simple Raymond. As Raymond searches for the baby's mother,
a young girl (Allison Glenn) looks for her missing sister, and an oily traveling salesman (David Strathairn) prowls the backroads in a pea-green Dodge, hunting Raymond and the infant. No shades of gray here: The film unfolds with all the subtlety of a religious parable. Raymond is so clearly a
symbol of Christian redemption and the sinful salesman is so filled with menace that we fully expect the figurative battle for the baby's soul to erupt into a hands-on, Sunday-school smackdown. And it very nearly does, in an action-filled climax that's completely at odds with the rest of the film.
Nevertheless, this is a promising start for director Katherine Dieckmann, whose previous credits include music videos for the likes of R.E.M. and Aimee Mann. Her sensitive direction of a fine cast and Jim Denault's evocative cinematography help compensate for the film's otherwise heavy hand.
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: NR
- Review: The spirit of Flannery O'Connor hangs heavy over this grim tale of good and evil in the backwoods of North Carolina, but the film is actually an adaptation of a novel by Canadian writer Leon Rooke. Early one morning, while hunting squirrels in the misty g… (more)