This sober-minded coming-of-age film was directed with fussy care by Martin Donovan. Though set in America, this misbegotten movie resembles a depressing British art film in the tradition of THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER (1962) but without the liberating, kitchen-sink realism of those pioneering '60s films. Ever since divorcing her control-freak husband, Roger Ellis (Gabriel Byrne), Charlotte (Nastassja Kinski) has focused her energy on raising her three sons and two daughters. Although basically good-hearted, 18-year-old Leon (Johnny Whitworth) has inherited his father's love of hell-raising. Afraid that he's setting a bad example for his younger siblings, Charlotte asks Leon to get his own place and meets him at the bank, intending to open an account for him. But they arrive just as robbers burst in; they take Leon hostage and fatally shoot Charlotte as she chases after their car. Further tumult rocks the Ellis household when Roger moves back in with his kids. Although Roger is quickly accepted by his younger children and adult son Clayton (Brian Donovan), who's deaf, Roger senses Leon's simmering defiance. During a violent quarrel about Roger's manipulativeness, Leon pushes his physically abusive dad; Roger hits his head on a fireplace step and dies. Leon panics and buries him in the yard, forging one of Roger's checks to keep the family intact. After a curious dog unearths Roger's resting place, Leon bolts. Clayton eventually convinces the police that Leon never meant to kill Roger and Leon has a vision of Charlotte, whose spirit forgives his headstrong actions and urges him to live in a way that will make her proud. Of all the film's hard-to-swallow contrivances, Leon's climactic spiritual reckoning is most outrageous. Kinski and Byrne float through the melodramatics as dispassionately as visiting dignitaries, while Whitworth galvanizes his character's angst with his forceful personality and Shirley Knight steals the show as the unflappable family housekeeper. The film draws out its Oedipally fixated narrative with intricate flashbacks, fanciful dream scenes and inserts from the Ellis family home movies, but the visual distractions can't compensate for the uninspired writing.
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: R
- Review: This sober-minded coming-of-age film was directed with fussy care by Martin Donovan. Though set in America, this misbegotten movie resembles a depressing British art film in the tradition of THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER (1962) but without the… (more)