Character actor Frank Wood moves front and center to deliver a beautiful lead performance in Eva S. Aridjis's quiet drama about a lonely, middle-aged pet photographer who impulsively takes in the troubled son of his first -- and only -- great love.
Once upon a time, Lawrence and Caroline were one of the countless high-school couples who swore that even though they were attending different colleges in the fall, nothing between them would ever change. Twenty-five years later, Lawrence (Wood) is still living in Bayonne, NJ, working as a pet photographer and clerking at the local police department where he also takes mug shots. Lawrence never did marry Caroline -- or anyone else, for that matter -- and now lives alone in a small, tidy house with his dog, Lucy. Caroline, it turned out, broke his heart not long after graduation, then went on to marry an abusive boyfriend named Harris who later ran off not long after their son Johnny was born. Now Caroline (Paige Turco) has returned to Bayonne with a sullen 16-year-old Johnny (The O.C.'s Ryan Donowho) to care for her ailing father (Michael Higgins), and contacts Lawrence. Over dinner they talk about their lives and all the water that's passed beneath their bridges, and Lawrence is clearly ecstatic that maybe, after all this time, Caroline is back in his life for good. And then, just as suddenly, she's gone, the victim of a freak accident for which, unbeknownst to anyone, Johnny is to blame. When Caroline's lawyer (Paul Lazar) tells Lawrence that Johnny will be placed in foster care -- his deadbeat father gave up all parental claims years ago -- Lawrence does something uncharacteristically impulsive: As a favor to the woman he never quite got over, he arranges to become the boy's guardian and takes Johnny into his home. Almost immediately, Lawrence realizes he's in over his head: He's not cut out to be a parent, and Johnny isn't exactly the son most parents would wish for. He's sullen and rude and thinks Lawrence is a freak, and when Lawrence meets with the school's principal, he finds out that Johnny is on the verge of being expelled for truancy and a bad attitude; the only reason he's been showing up since he moved into Lawrence's house is to sell pot to his classmates. Tormented by the guilt he feels over the part he played in his mother's death, the only other person he seems to care about is Lawrence's neighbor, Mariana (Isidra Vega), who goes to Johnny's school. When Johnny brutally attacks a boy he thinks is flirting with her, Lawrence realizes he might have made the biggest mistake of his life.
Shot in and around the working-class neighborhoods of Bayonne, documentary director-turned-feature filmmaker Aridjis skillfully underplays the drama -- and the subtle humor -- and Wood is perfectly in sync, giving a quietly intense, wholly believable portrayal of a man who's made his peace with heartbreak and disappointment, but is still willing to stay true to the only woman he really loved. The excellent soundtrack plays like a great mixed tape, featuring music by Blondie, The Troggs, The Stone Roses, Interpol and Chris Montez.
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- Released: 2008
- Rating: NR
- Review: Character actor Frank Wood moves front and center to deliver a beautiful lead performance in Eva S. Aridjis's quiet drama about a lonely, middle-aged pet photographer who impulsively takes in the troubled son of his first -- and only -- great love. Onc… (more)