One’s actions, whether they choose to take responsibility or not, always come with a reaction or consequence. I try my hardest to take responsibility for my behavior. There have been times when I was not aware I was causing a person distress. On the other hand, at times I knew exactly what I was doing; not saying it was right or wrong, just going with the moment. It was a pleasant surprise watching this small, independent film. Small in budget, but not in star power. I found this dramatic movie put a different twist on the idea of a person being accountable. The story was about two strangers and how each of their actions led them to one common tragedy and its aftermath. Ana Nicholas, played by Minnie Driver (The Phantom of the Opera, Good Will Hunting) was a mother being told her son needed to be in a better equipped school, to handle his special needs. Minnie was exceptional in the role; I could feel her emotional exhaustion as she struggled to keep everything in control. Saul Gregor, played by Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Bourne Legacy), was becoming more and more desperate to find the money to pay back a loan, before bodily harm befell him. It was a treat to see Jeremy in this role, that was filmed before he did The Hurt Locker. One could see what a fine actor he already was becoming before hitting the big time. I found him to be powerful in an ever increasing powerless situation; the anxious desperation oozed out of him. The filming was unique, taking me a few minutes to get into its unusual pacing. Scenes and their story lines alternated between the two characters, with a mixture of colorless starkness and soft edges. This film festival winner was a treat for me. The final message really hit home on how we can be a better person when we take responsibility.
2 3/4 stars — DVD
The relationship between siblings comes in a multitude of varied forms. Being best friends to hated rivals and everything in between, one never knows what influences the outcome. When a group of bullies beat me up after school; it was my oldest brother who came to the school, not my father. There was a reason for this; my brother had a special way of inducing fear into the bullies that the school teachers could not replicate. Based on birth order, sometimes the eldest child has to take on a parental role. With me being the youngest, I want to be perfectly clear I was not spoiled; despite what the rest of my family may think. In this captivating movie, the relationship between two siblings took on new meaning due to outside factors. Brother Raymond, played by newcomer Michael Chen, had to be a parent to his little sister Tina, played by newcomer Crystal Chiu; when their mother did not return to the apartment they were illegally occupying, just outside of Boston. Their mother Elaine Cheng, played by Cindy Cheung (Lady in the Water, Red Doors), was a hard working, single parent who tried to shield her children from the reality of their plight. However, it was an observant Raymond who did his best to protect his sister. I not only found the story to be believable, but wondered how many families had experienced similar hardships. The two child actors were wonderful in their roles. Raymond as the quiet thinker and Tina the innocent little girl who was unaware of her family’s dire circumstances. What a beautiful movie that displayed the strong bond between a brother and sister.
3 1/4 stars — DVD
When it was time for me to go to college, I had to go to a weekend orientation prior to the start of school. During that time I had my first contact with fraternity guys. It took only 2 days to realize I was not cut out to be part of a fraternity. Not that I had anything bad to say; it just was not my thing. I am more comfortable with individuality instead of trying to be part of a group mentality. I wondered if this would be a hindrance for me to review this movie about college life. It was not, for this film had a strong quirky style to it with offbeat characters. A group of girls ran a suicide prevention center to help their fellow students with depression and suicide. The leader of the group was Violet, played by Greta Gerwig (Greenberg, No Strings Attached), who believed tap dancing and musical numbers would be the cure. Transfer student Lily, played by Analeigh Tipton (The Green Hornet; Crazy, Stupid Love) was taken under the girls’ wings as they navigated their way through campus life. There was a darkness to this movie, that was kept in check with some great lines. I found the humor off the wall; not to a laugh out loud level, but certainly chuckles and smirks. However, the inconsistent script was all over the place. At times clear and focused, other times muddled and slow. Though there was an independent flair to this comedy, I don’t think you would get a detention for cutting this showing.
2 1/4 stars