Shadrach

  • 1998
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • Drama

Director Susanna Styron, daughter of Pulitzer prize-winning novelist William Styron, has lovingly adapted one of her father's reminiscences of his childhood, spent in the Tidewater region of Virginia, into perfectly serviceable family entertainment. On a blazingly hot summer afternoon in 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression, 10-year-old Paul Whitehurst...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Director Susanna Styron, daughter of Pulitzer prize-winning novelist William Styron, has lovingly adapted one of her father's reminiscences of his childhood, spent in the Tidewater region of Virginia, into perfectly serviceable family entertainment. On a blazingly

hot summer afternoon in 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression, 10-year-old Paul Whitehurst (Scott Terra) and best friend Little Mole Dabney (Daniel Treat) come face-to-face with a living ghost from an even more painful past. A 99-year-old African-American man named Shadrach (John Franklin

Sawyer) appears at the Dabneys' shabby front gate, claiming to have been a slave on the Dabney family's tobacco plantation, a distant and now useless plot of land owned by Little Moe's father, Vernon (Harvey Keitel), a destitute, temperamental bootlegger, and his kindly, beer-swilling wife (a

surprisingly competent Andie MacDowell). Shadrach has walked all the way from Alabama to fulfill his dying wish; he considers himself a Dabney, and wants to be buried with his kinfolk on Dabney land. The film follows the Dabney clan (with young Paul in tow) as they travel deep into the picturesque

Virginia countryside to deal with the return of a past that's never really gone away. Told from Paul's perspective (read: the young William Styron's), the film wisely doesn't try to explore the African-American experience of the years following the "Emancipation." It focuses instead on one young,

white American's introduction to racism, class difference and death. It's an amazingly faithful adaptation -- Styron squeezes as much of her father's prose into the dialogue as she can, and what's left is given to Martin Sheen to read in voice-over -- but it's clear that his downbeat original

ending just wouldn't do. In its place, Susanna Styron and cowriter Bridget Terry have fashioned a tidy, guilt-alleviating finale, a soothing balm to a deep wound that's probably better left smarting.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Director Susanna Styron, daughter of Pulitzer prize-winning novelist William Styron, has lovingly adapted one of her father's reminiscences of his childhood, spent in the Tidewater region of Virginia, into perfectly serviceable family entertainment. On a b… (more)

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