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IN SHORT: Those of parental age should hunt this film down and see it. Rated R for a scene of sexuality. 97 minutes]
I'm going to step out of character for a second as I begin this review. There is nothing I can conceive of that is worse than a parent watching a child die. Or, if the story is about a kidnapping, vanish with no idea as to whether or not the kidlet is alive or not. My very best, and very first, childhood friend had a single digit daughter who complained one evening about not feeling well. Kids do that. The next day she was dead of a rogue strain of influenza. Gone in a blink.
Or, in my case, a couple of years before we were recovered enough to begin writing these review blogs, a traffic accident broke my neck and sent me into the white light (and back out) and my parents were told by the doctors in the hospital that they would do their best, but it would be wise to start thinking about funeral preparations. Either situation yields the same emotional minefield. No parent should lose a child. The loss affects those who remain behind in ways that can never be predicted.
In the case of Detective Thomas Adkins (Jon Hamm) and his son Tommy Jr. (Ty Panitz) the abduction was as simple as dad going to the bathroom in a diner in a town called Barnstable, out in the middle of nowhere. There is some kind of carnival going on outside and around said diner. Tom, who has told Tommy to stay put, assumes the boy has wandered outside. Young Tommy is never seen again. In the home Thomas shares with his wife, Barbara (Rhona Mitra), Tommy's room becomes a museum. Untouched as the years progress. Tom is driven to find his son but there is no clue to follow; no forensics to yield such clues. Nothing. Until some construction near the diner site unearths a box with the remains of a chid inside. A child just about Tommy's size.
It isn't Tommy. An analysis of the remains indicates that this child had been killed at least 50 years earlier. That gives Tom a new case to pursue . . . for if he cannot bring justice for his child. Perhaps he can find justice for the boy in the box.
Such is the set up for Stolen, one of the best written films we've screened in years. For as the character Adkins investigates the box, and the original construction persons who may have buried said box, another equally heart-rending story plays out on the big screen. This one is about one Matthew Wakefield (Josh Lucas), whose wife Pearl is suicidally depressed and whose youngest son John (Jimmy Bennett) is, what was called in those days, retarded. Two other sons, Luke and Mark are relatively "normal" and, as such, are taken into a relatives house to be raised. Matthew and John hit the road, trying to eke out a living that will allow the elder to keep a constant eye on the younger. Maybe find a woman who will help to watch over the child. Wherever they go, eventually, someone in authority demands that Matthew leave John behind ... or else.
The question becomes: "How far can the parental bond be stretched before it snaps?"
Back in the present, the answer to that question, and the search for answers to the apparent murder puts a whole new kind of strain on the marriage of Detective Adkins and his wife. Add to that the news that the only suspect in the kidnapping of his own son, a convict named Roggiani, is about to be granted parole from prison and you can see how the good detective's life is falling apart. Unabe to do anything about the events in the present, Adkins' research into the events of fifty years earlier brings other characters to the fore. A contractor Wakefield worked for. A fellow worker, nicknamed Diploma (James Van Der Beek), who seems to have befriended Wakefield and is busy trying to fix him up with local woman. Most of the local women are married, and that presents all sorts of potential violence. As we said, great little details in a great little script.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Stolen, he would have paid . . .
Over the last fifteen years we have always made distinctions between movies that will live and die in the arthouses and those that will make the consumer friendly big bucks in the local cineplexes. Every once in a while we sit through a film which is perfectly suited for the former and think to our self: "Hmmm. Wonder if we can get this to cross over to the mega market?" We don't think Stolen will have fifteen year olds elbow deep in popcorn but for audiences old enough to understand the parental imperative, this indie could hit. Check it out.
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