Writer-director Lodge Kerrigan's harrowing but enormously empathetic third feature is a journey into the mouth of madness, specifically the maw of a man tormented by his 6-year-old daughter's unexplained disappearance. Nearly a year after Sophie vanished from New York City's seedy Port Authority bus terminal, divorced father William Keane (Damian Lewis) is distraught to the point of psychosis, shopping for clothes he knows she'll probably never wear, obsessively retracing his steps around the candy counter where she was last seen and grabbing at random passersby to ask if they've seen his little girl. Keane tries to numb his pain with vodka and crack, which only exacerbate the psychotic episodes during which he hears mocking, accusatory voices and feels the eyes of strangers boring into him. Keane's torment is rooted in personal guilt — Sophie disappeared while spending a joint-custody weekend with him — and his anguished conscience soon draws him toward a sad-eyed 7-year-old girl, Kira (Abigail Breslin), and her desperate mother, Lynn (Amy Ryan). Temporarily separated from her husband, Lynn has just moved into the cheap, New Jersey motel Keane temporarily calls home, and while wary of his friendly offer to help pay for her room, she soon allows herself to depend on his strange kindness. She even asks him to pick Kira up from school one day and watch her for an afternoon. When Lynn doesn't return until the following day, then announces she'll be taking Kira to her father in Albany, Keane, who's come to adore the child, makes a desperate move. Anyone who lives in a crowded city where the mentally ill slip through the safety nets of friends, family and social services and wind up living on the far, shabby fringes — and, too often, the streets — has seen like Keane: a muttering, anguished soul tormented by something only he or she could possibly know. Kerrigan explored the damaged psyches of another father searching for his missing daughter in CLEAN, SHAVEN (1995) and of prostitute CLAIRE DOLAN (1998), who cares for her dying mother while plotting to escape the life, and here he performs a small miracle of empathy that's both scary and profoundly human. He not only makes Keane's suffering real, but entirely understandable. John Foster's claustrophobic cinematography — his camera rarely leaves Keane's shoulder — is key to the success of this remarkable film, but it rests on British-born Lewis' astonishing performance. His characterization is so bold, so raw and so far out on an emotional ledge that you can't help but fear he'll never find his way back.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: R
- Review: Writer-director Lodge Kerrigan's harrowing but enormously empathetic third feature is a journey into the mouth of madness, specifically the maw of a man tormented by his 6-year-old daughter's unexplained disappearance. Nearly a year after Sophie vanished f… (more)