SEE YOU IN VALHALLA

(ARC ENTERTAINMENT/TARNOL GROUP PICTURES (82 minutes; Rated R); 2015)

SeeYouInValhalla_2D

Taking dysfunction to an entirely new level, SEE YOU IN VALHALLA follows the Burwood family as they gather after several years apart to mourn their brother, a troubled young man who found peace living in a Viking colony. After Maxwell (played in pivotal flashbacks by Jake McDorman, whose most high profile role to date has been in AMERICAN SNIPER) – who had adopted the Viking name Magnus – and his girlfriend left the colony, she drifted back into drugs, dying of an overdose and sending the distraught young man spiraling out of control; taking justice into his own hands, Magnus attacked the drug dealer and his associates with a broadsword, effectively committing suicide by proxy.

SEE YOU IN VALHALLA (Jake McDorman) (publicity still)

SEE YOU IN VALHALLA (Jake McDorman) (publicity still)

The youngest Burwood, Johana, learns of her brother’s death from a television news report. As Johana (played by MODERN FAMILY’s Sarah Hyland, who is also a co-producer on the project) sits stunned, there’s a knock at her door; it’s Peter, her scheduled date. Telling Peter (Alex Frost) that she forgot about their plans, she apologizes and tells him about her brother. What Johana intended to be a casual get-together meant something far different for the smitten Peter, who immediately volunteers to accompany her back home. With Peter in tow, Johana heads for home, where she is greeted by her father, Woody (Conor O’Farrell), a man who had always been a bit distant toward his children and further distanced himself as he enveloped himself in grief after the death of his wife; with Woody is his live-in nurse (and former grocery delivery person), Faye (Emma Bell), a spirit so free that she is continually mere nanoseconds away from floating away. Already at the home is Jo’s older brother, Barry (played by Bret Harrison, who has starred in two of my favorite TV series of the past fifteen years, the deeply twisted GROUNDED FOR LIFE and the wildly underrated REAPER) and his life partner, Makewi (a more-than-a-little off-center performance from Steve Howey, who has an impressive resume, including a recurring role in SONS OF ANARCHY, but will probably forever be known for his role of Reba McEntire’s screwball son-in-law, Van on REBA).

SEE YOU IN VALHALLA (Bret Harrison, Steve Howey, Michael Weston, Sarah Hyland, Alex Frost) (publicity still)

SEE YOU IN VALHALLA (Bret Harrison, Steve Howey, Michael Weston, Sarah Hyland, Alex Frost) (publicity still)

The final piece of the Burwood family mosaic is oldest brother Don (Michael Weston), a holier-than-thou perfectionist who blames Woody for all of his (well-hidden) problems (actually, he blames his father for the extinction of the dinosaurs and every other ill that has beset this planet since the dawn of time). With the arrival of Don and his Nazi-in-training teenage daughter, Ashley (snarkily portrayed by Odeya Rush), the sniping, cheap shots and fist-throwing begins. Throughout it all, Jo manages to stay fairly well out of the line of fire… until the entire family convenes for supper, where Ashley admits her superiority over all others by announcing her plans to remain a virgin until marriage and qualifies that decision by pointing out that “at least I won’t have to get an abortion,” a subject that is a widespread rumor about Jo amongst the general populace but never discussed in the Burwood home. Johana, of course, takes umbrage to the condescending remark, which suddenly turns into a free-for-all yelling and shoving match between Woody and Don. Tragedy, quite naturally, ensues… something so startling that it brings the three quarreling siblings together and sees Pete and, especially, the zen philosophy of Makewi showing their true worth to this insane family to whom they have become, at the very least, satellites caught in their gravitational pull. The ending, a hair-brained scheme concocted by the two that brings the whole family together, is truly touching.

SEE YOU IN VALHALLA (Steve Howey, Sarah Hyland) (publicity still)

SEE YOU IN VALHALLA (Steve Howey, Sarah Hyland) (publicity still)

SEE YOU IN VALHALLA is a brutal look at familial in-fighting that really isn’t intended for the young’uns (the R rating is for some very coarse language more than anything else) and, though it borders on the realm of “chick flick,” there’s enough testosterone and subversive comedy (Makewi and Pete’s first encounter; Don and Barry’s argument about the latter allowing Ashley to indulge in an alcoholic beverage) to make it a great late-night date movie (several linear yards of very beautiful people certainly doesn’t hurt, either). Don’t get me wrong, it is far from perfect; there are more than enough cringe-worthy moments to fill a couple more movies but, I have come to the conclusion that great acting can overcome a marginal script and, conversely, no matter how great the script is, marginal acting will absolutely ruin it. In this case, the cast is first-rate (Howey, in particular, is a stand-out), as they manage to rise above some of the more questionable sequences to deliver an entertaining piece of family drama. Even a couple of rather convoluted plot devices involving Johana’s former boyfriend and the abortion rumor are well-acted, if not well-written. There are certainly worse ways to spend an hour-and-a-half than watching SEE YOU IN VALHALLA.


AUTUMN BLOOD

(DVD and Digital; ARC ENTERTAINMENT/DREAMRUNNER PICTURES/MOUNTAIN FILMS (99 minutes/Rated R); 2014)

Autumn Blood 2D flat

AUTUMN BLOOD is a very quiet, almost pastoral movie, filled with moments of unbelievable brutality, violence and pain. Beautifully filmed in the mountains around Tirol, Austria, the scenery is breathtaking and there is a sense that we may be watching a story set in the untamed wild west of the United States; the only things visible to place the movie in modern times are the vehicles, farm machinery and weaponry. The opening sequence of the film sets the stage as, six years earlier, a farming family’s lives are shattered when the father is killed by the mayor of the nearby village. The inference from what happens prior is that the mayor either raped the mother or they were having an affair. At any rate, the father is dead, leaving the mother to care for her two young children.

AUTUMN BLOOD (Sophie Lowe, Maximilian Harnisch) (publicity still)

AUTUMN BLOOD (Sophie Lowe, Maximilian Harnisch) (publicity still)

The movie shifts to the mother and her now sixteen year old daughter (played with an innocence that seems almost too real to be acting, by Sophie Lowe, an ethereal, waifish beauty who may be best known for her role as Alice in the television series, ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND) and ten year old son (Maximilian Harnisch), who hasn’t spoken a word since witnessing his father’s death. There’s a gentleness and a sense of idyllic contentment, or maybe it’s resignation to their lots in life… whatever it is, the mother does her best to give the children a good life.

AUTUMN BLOOD (Gustaf Skarsgard, Sophie Lowe) (publicity still)

AUTUMN BLOOD (Gustaf Skarsgard, Sophie Lowe) (publicity still)

The girl’s innocence is probably best displayed as she swims/bathes in a secluded pond; she lays, drying on the rocks, completely at one with her surroundings. As she lay there one morning, dreaming, a hunter (the mayor’s son, played by Samuel Vauramo) breaks her reverie. Totally unaffected and unashamed, she doesn’t try to cover herself. It isn’t until the man grabs her and bends in to kiss her that she begins to understand his intentions and tries to fight him off. Beaten and bloody, the girl eventually makes her way home. She is met by her brother who helps her into their house, where more heartache awaits. As the boy was doing chores around the farm and while the girl was being brutalized, their mother had finally succumbed to the loneliness (or guilt, as there are several clues that she was, in fact, somehow involved with the mayor), ending her own life (at least, that’s how I read the scene). As the girl cleanses her wounds and tries to wash away the rape, she makes the decision to quietly bury their mother and keep her death a secret so that she and her brother wouldn’t be taken from their home and, possibly, separated.

AUTUMN BLOOD (Peter Stormare, Sophie Lowe) (publicity still)

AUTUMN BLOOD (Peter Stormare, Sophie Lowe) (publicity still)

On a trip into town, the girl, still showing signs of the beating she took, is waited on by a caring banker who grows suspicious and calls a social worker to check on the family situation. The girl also encounters the mayor (a steely-eyed Peter Stormare) in the local church, as well as being intimidated by the town butcher (played with a sense of monstrous depravity by Gustaf Skarsgard), the hunter and another friend. Later that night, the three men pay the children a visit, threatening to kill the boy and, once again, forcing themselves upon the girl. The mayor suspects his son and the others are, at the very least, up to no good and, possibly, in far more trouble than he has the power to get them out of.

AUTUMN BLOOD (Samuel Vauramo, Peter Stormare) (publicity still)

AUTUMN BLOOD (Samuel Vauramo, Peter Stormare) (publicity still)

Now knowing of the mayor’s suspicions, the three decide to kill the only witnesses to their crimes. As the girl and her brother try to allude their would-be executioners, the film takes on a disturbing DELIVERENCE quality. Amidst the scenic backdrop of the Austrian countryside, the three stalk the siblings for the final third of the movie. As is always the case in such chase scenes, the villains are dispatched, one in a fairly standard fashion, the other two in less obvious ways. The chase sequence, which encompasses two days, is chilling, thrilling and nicely staged. I do, however, question the need for the girl to doff her clothing once she finds a suitable hiding place for the night; it just seems incongruous and more than a bit exploitive. If you’re paying close attention all the way through AUTUMN BLOOD, the final scene offers a little hint as to the relationship between the mother and the mayor and… I ain’t sayin’ no more. You’re going to have to connect the dots yourself.

AUTUMN BLOOD (Tim Morten Uhlenbrock, Gustaf Skarsgard, Samuel Vauramo) (publicity still)

AUTUMN BLOOD (Tim Morten Uhlenbrock, Gustaf Skarsgard, Samuel Vauramo) (publicity still)

As mentioned, the movie has some nudity, violence and two brutal rape scenes, so it has an R rating, though it seems that most teens (say, 12 and over) wouldn’t be too shocked or permanently damaged if they watched it, depending on their sensitivity to such things. I originally felt that the rapes would be dealbreakers for a majority of viewers but, the overall quality of the story eventually won me over. By the way, about those rape and nude scenes… Sophie Lowe was 21 years old when the film began shooting so, everything was above board and legal.


LOUDER THAN WORDS

(ARC ENTERTAINMENT/IDENTITY FILMS (93 minutes, Rated PG-13); 2014)

LOUDER THAN WORDS

For me, ambivalence is not an option for a film like LOUDER THAN WORDS; either I like such fare very much or hate it vehemently. I knew that the script was based on a true story which, depending on the screenwriter, the director, the principal stars and – yes – the subject matter, could signal disaster or thought-provoking, uplifting confirmations about life, family and the inherent good within each of us. The first few minutes of LOUDER THAN WORDS had me leaning toward disaster… to the point that I nearly hit the “stop” button on the remote. But, I hung in and, thankfully, was rewarded with story about life and death and family dynamics that seem, in some part, to reflect each of us.

LOUDER THAN WORDS (David Duchovny and Hope Davis) (publicity still)

LOUDER THAN WORDS (David Duchovny and Hope Davis) (publicity still)

So, is LOUDER… perfect? No, the movie definitely has problems, which I’ll address shortly. First, though, here’s the basic gist of the story (no spoilers here, as the story has been well documented): John and Brenda Fareri (played by David Duchovny and Hope Davis) are a well-to-do couple devastated after the loss of their 13 year old daughter, Maria (Olivia Steele-Falconer), to a rare strain of rabies. Maria, a vibrant and loving child, was the glue that held the Ferari family unit together. John – always the thoughtful, quiet one – seems to become more insular and withdrawn, alienating Brenda and their other children (from Brenda’s previous marriage), triplets Stephanie, Michael and Julie (Adelaide Kane, Ben Rosenfield and Morgan Griffin), each grieving in their own fashion and wondering why the man they call Father has abandoned them. At one point, one of the girls tells her Mother that she fels like things are back to the way they were before John became a part of their family: Like they didn’t have a Father. John gains focus when he decides to build a new children’s hospital to better serve the needs of the whole family and to make the kids feel – if not at home – a little more comfortable about their hospital stay. Of course, everybody thinks that John has driven off the rails somewhere, including city leaders, rich friends and the consultant (Bruce Komiske, played by Timothy Hutton) he hires to help bring his dream to fruition. An eventual kitchen showdown between Brenda and John allows both to vent and gain a modicum of understanding of the pain the other is feeling. From there, it isn’t a great stretch to bring Brenda and the three kids on board and start the ball (and donations) rolling. The previous despair is replaced by a sense of hope and a desire to help others in the Fareri’s situation.

LOUDER THAN WORDS (Olivia Steele-Falconer) (publicity still)

LOUDER THAN WORDS (Olivia Steele-Falconer) (publicity still)

The film is narrated by Maria, who is initially seen riding her bicycle on a beautiful fall day (or, maybe, she’s in Heaven). I originally found this premise a bit dubious, to say the least but, as the story progresses, it seems somehow natural that she would be the one to tell this story. LOUDER THAN WORDS encompasses approximately seven years, boiled down into a compact 90-minute package; and, therein, lies the bulk of my problems with the movie. Sometimes it just seems too much like watching MTV on speed for its own good. The film bounces back and forth between past and present, generally via family remembrances, with too many quick cuts and edits and little “black-out” vignettes meant to move the story forward as quickly as possible. Producer Anthony Mastromauro says, in the “behind the scenes” bonus feature, I think any time you’re telling a story that spans a number of years, the non-linear structure can work in your favor.” Or not, sir. While I did find the movie engaging and the story a great affirmation of life, I would very much have preferred a more traditional, linear telling (which the film does revert to eventually) and, maybe, about another 30-minutes to flesh out a few of those frustrating vignettes.

LOUDER THAN WORDS (Timothy Hutton, Hope Davis and David Duchovny) (publicity still)

LOUDER THAN WORDS (Timothy Hutton, Hope Davis and David Duchovny) (publicity still)

Some of John’s flashback sequences are akin to Agent Mulder’s search for his sister (and the truth, which is out there… or so we’re told) in THE X FILES. And, now that I think about it, the hospital where Maria dies kinda looks like one of those draped-in-shadows secret government facilities that Scully and Mulder would occasionally find themselves searching for that truth. As is often the case with a death in the family (particularly a young child), the survivors each handle the loss in their own way. The Fareri family’s coping mechanisms may seem a bit over the top, but… try to put yourself in their shoes (heck, you may have been in those shoes yourself once). I haven’t lost a child, but I watched my Mother go through it twice; it’s a pain that never goes away. So, anyway… the kids are suitably sullen; Brenda is devastated, confused and angry… in that order; John is, first, zombie-like, then, inconsolable and, finally, driven. With Bruce Komiske on board, John and he begin to knock on the doors of the wealthy and the powerful. At one point, a consultant mentions that the best way to build a new hospital is by putting a donor’s name on the building; John steadfastly declares that the hospital will bear his daughter’s name. That is the attitude that has his family and friends, at first, questioning his sanity and, later, joining him in the fight to give these children and their families a state-of-the-art facility, as well as a sense of hope.

LOUDER THAN WORDS (Ben Rosenfield, Hope Davis, David Duchovny, Morgan Griffin and Adelaide Kane) (publicity still)

LOUDER THAN WORDS (Ben Rosenfield, Hope Davis, David Duchovny, Morgan Griffin and Adelaide Kane) (publicity still)

Duchovny’s performance is understated, sometimes to the point that he appears to be mumbling his lines; he very rarely raises his voice, but when he does, it’s with authority and passion. The sincerity in the faces and eyes of Duchovny, Davis and Hutton are real. In the “behind the scenes” documentary, they each declare how much they believed in this story and how much they believed that it was one that should be told… standard quotes for any actor about any of their projects. This time, though, that same sincerity is in their eyes. They aren’t just giving lip service, they really mean it. Rosenfield, Kane and Griffin play the lost and hurting triplets as if they’re walking through a very bad dream; and, that’s exactly what it feels like, especially when you feel like you’ve lost your parents, too. Olivia Steele-Falconer, at times, seems to be in over her head and overreaching to compensate but, when it’s all said and done, she delivers a moving performance. The Fareri family were all involved in the production of LOUDER THAN WORDS and, I couldn’t imagine how hard that must have been, particularly when they would see this little girl playing their daughter and the uncanny resemblance to Maria.

LOUDER THAN WORDS (The Maria Fareri Children's Hospital; Maria in inset) (uncredited photos)

LOUDER THAN WORDS (The Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital; Maria in inset) (uncredited photos)

So, I told you that it wasn’t perfect and I stated my reasons for that assessment. If you don’t feel the same way I do about the editing style and non-linear storytelling, then by all means, you should check out LOUDER THAN WORDS. It truly is a story that had to be told.


HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

(DVD and Video-On-Demand; WATERCOLOR ENTERTAINMENT/ARC ENTERTAINMENT (116 minutes/Rated PG-13); 2014)

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

A gentle, unassuming movie, HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS (production title: WATERCOLOR POSTCARDS) reminds me of those indie movies from the ’70s (THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GRIZZLY ADAMS or any of those back-to-nature things) or one of those Christian movies that churches used to show to kids on a fairly regular basis where the quiet guy with the long hair and beard turned out to be Jesus. And, like most of those movies, one of the lead actors actually wrote the script, as well. Though there’s a horse present and the movie does have some definite spiritual overtones, wolves, bears and coyotes are all no-shows; likewise, the Savior is absent… at least in a physical manifestation.

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS (Bailee Madison and Conrad Goode) (publicity still)

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS (Bailee Madison and Conrad Goode) (publicity still)

Alright… before this thing gets out of hand and even sillier, let’s just get back to HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS. This is a story about family. Specifically, it shows that family isn’t necessarily confined to a shared DNA. The story revolves around 10-year old Cotton (played by Bailee Madison, who played Selena Gomez’ younger brother for awhile in the Disney Channel series, THE WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE), who is the adopted daughter of a dying Texas town. Everyone watches out for Cotton just as she watches over her alcoholic mother (an all but unrecognizable Joan Van Ark, in a small but memorable role). Cotton is a dreamer; early in the story, she tells friend, neighbor and protector Butch (scriptwriter, producer and former New York Giants/Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman, Conrad Goode) that her Momma was going to Heaven and that everything was going to be okay because, “I saw it in my dreams last night.” Indeed, that night her mother died.

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS (Laura Bell Bundy, Bailee Madison and Conrad Goode) (publicity still)

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS (Laura Bell Bundy, Bailee Madison and Conrad Goode) (publicity still)

The county sheriff is on hand, performing his sworn duty by collecting Cotton and taking her to be made a ward of the state. As he and Butch are debating the finer points of Texas law that say the best interest of the child must come first, Cotton’s older sister, Sunny (Laura Bell Bundy), a failed actress now living in Los Angeles, shows up to make peace and say goodbye to her mother. It seems that the hand-painted (by Butch) postcards that Cotton has been sending every day for several weeks had, indeed, reached her (physically, if not emotionally). Sunny discovers that she’s too late to say goodbye and the sheriff tells her that the girls’ mother had named Sunny guardian to Cotton: “You get Cotton; Cotton gets the house.” Sunny reluctantly agrees to accept guardianship of Cotton and, overwhelmed, takes to the bathroom and the bottle of pills in her bag. It would seem that whatever misery Sunny tried to run from had followed her to LA.

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS (Conrad Goode, Laura Bell Bundy andBailee Madison) (publicity still)

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS (Conrad Goode, Laura Bell Bundy andBailee Madison) (publicity still)

As Sunny begins to settle in, her past, in the form of ex-boyfriend Jackson (Rhett Giles) comes calling, every bit as mean-spirited and belligerent as she had remembered. It seems that Jackson doesn’t mind inflicting a little bit of pain on the women he loves: He berates and demeans his current girlfriend, apparently, just for being there. As the story unfolds, we discover that Sunny’s problem with pills stems from a drunk-driving incident on a date with Jackson; he was driving, she injured her back and, as he so eloquently states, got “a cheap abortion.” Jackson and his father (a dastardly turn by Steve Eastin) are two of a kind: Jackson bullies and berates to get his way; his father, an unscrupulous bank owner, uses the law to get his way. Jackson manages a car dealership and hires Sunny to a janitorial position to reassert his dominance over her; Mister Morgan is foreclosing on a bar owned by the kindhearted Ledball (Jonathan Banks), a childhood friend of the girls’ mother, as well as making the sheriff order Butch to close down the roadside stand where he sells his artwork.

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS (Bailee Madison, Conrad Goode and Laura Bell Bundy) (publicity still)

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS (Bailee Madison, Conrad Goode and Laura Bell Bundy) (publicity still)

Sunny, still planning to exit as quickly as possible, finds that she is beginning to care deeply for the little sister that she barely knows. She also finds herself starting to care about the soft-spoken, postcard painting, songwriting ex-football player next door. After Cotton hears Sunny sing, she has another dream that will save them, Butch, Ledball’s bar and the entire town of Bent Arrow. She then puts into motion a plan to get Sunny to sing and Butch to accompany her on guitar at a Fourth of July picnic, so Ledball will hire them to play at his bar. The plan is ultimately successful and a date is set for the duo to perform. A near tragedy cements the pair’s love for each other and they begin in earnest to prepare for their debut. As Cotton, Sunny and Butch are just beginning to find the happiness that has eluded them for so long, tragedy strikes again.

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS (Laura Bell Bundy and Conrad Goode) (publicity still)

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS (Laura Bell Bundy and Conrad Goode) (publicity still)

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS is a family movie, but it isn’t a happy kiddie sort of affair; it’s rough around the edges, with some course language, a lot of drinking, some drug use and plenty of sexual situations. Those rough edges will keep the older kids and the adults in the family interested in the story and these very human characters; the gentle family scenes will keep the little ones involved. It is, ultimately, a story about the hope for something better, the triumph of family and unconditional love that isn’t limited to the bits of biological make-up that determines who your relatives are. The final half of this film is as gut-wrenchingly emotional as any family oriented movie since, maybe, BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA. I would strongly advise that you don’t let the kids watch this one alone; pop some corn and curl up with them on the couch, at least for the first time through.


SAVING GRACE B JONES

(NEW FILMS INTERNATIONAL/ARC ENTERTAINMENT (115 minutes/Rated R), 2014; Original Theatrical Release, 2011)

Saving Grace B Jones_2D

The instant I saw the title, I knew that SAVING GRACE B JONES was going to tug at the heart strings. It does. The first thing that usually comes to a guy’s mind when he sees those words is: “Chick Flick.” However, I gotta tell you, that definitely is not the case with this movie. Actress Connie Stevens (HAWAIIAN EYE and a butt-load of TV and movie appearances) acts as director, executive producer, co-writer and narrator on what turns out to be a thrilling – and, yes, heartbreaking – tale of a perfect Central Missouri family driven to the brink of desperation by a confluence of events that they have no control over. Without giving away too much, here’s the plot of the “inspired by a true story” film:

SAVING GRACE B JONES: Tatum O'Neal (publicity still)

SAVING GRACE B JONES: Tatum O’Neal (publicity still)

Set in 1951, Rylee Fansler portrays 10 year old Carrie (Stevens narrates as the adult Carrie). Already traumatized by the death of her mother, she becomes even more withdrawn and noncommunicable after witnessing a brutal stabbing. Her father makes the decision to send her to a small rural town called Boonville to spend the summer with an old Army buddy and his family. As Carrie settles in with Landy and Bea Bretthorst (Michael Biehn and Penelope Ann Miller) and their free-spirited daughter, Lucy (Evie Louise Thompson), she seems to be putting the gruesome memory behind her. She and Lucy even tag along when Landy travels to Oklahoma to bring his sister, Grace (Tatum O’Neal), home to live with the family. Grace had suffered horrible injuries when she was hit by a truck on her wedding day in 1935. The grueling recovery process drove Grace over the edge and she had spent the past sixteen years in a mental institution or, as they were commonly called then, an insane asylum. An underlying concern, hinted at throughout the movie, is a seemingly Biblical rain that constantly threatens the town, close to the Missouri River.

There are also hints of the abuse that Grace has had to withstand as a patient in the institution… all in the name of healing. Piper Laurie appears, in a delightfully wicked turn, as the asylum’s director, Marta Shrank. She is of the opinion that anyone ever admitted to such a place can never be released, as they are a threat to themselves and those around them (a sentiment, by the way, shared by most of Boonville, including the pious Reverend Potter): “… the best doctors and judges we have said that people who come here will never be right again. Maybe the doctors are smarter than you and me.” She isn’t very fond of her charges or of the two children that have accompanied Landy Bretthorst to bring Grace home and, with one of the best lines in the movie, she declares: “Tommy, it’s been so many years since I’ve seen children. They’re almost like little people, aren’t they?”

SAVING GRACE B JONES: Evie Louise Thompson and Rylee Fanser (publicity still)

SAVING GRACE B JONES: Evie Louise Thompson and Rylee Fansler (publicity still)

Grace’s homecoming isn’t the smooth transition that Landy envisioned. Things are complicated by the fact that her groom lives across the street from the Bretthorsts with his pregnant wife. The rains continue to fall intermittently adding to the feeling of isolation, as Landy is constantly called away to help with sandbagging at outlying areas. However, both Lucy and Carrie have found a kindred spirit, as they grow close to the troubled woman. In one particularly poignant scene, Grace and Lucy are sitting on the roof of their porch (apparently, a sanctuary for both). Grace opens up a bit about her life, saying, “I wonder if anyone will ever know why I existed? I am crazy, you know.” She tells her niece about some of the things she did in her youth, concluding with the insightful line, “It’s funny… the hard thing about being crazy is, you don’t get to do crazy things anymore.” This tender moment, of a completely lucid Grace interacting with one of the few people in her life that doesn’t judge her, is – literally – the calm before the storm. She’s still fighting her demons but, the one person who may be able to help her is too busy to see how much she needs him. Everything comes crashing down for Grace and the family after a tragic accident that…

SAVING GRACE B JONES: Connie Stevens, Evie Louise Thompson, Rylee Fansler and Tatum O'Neal (publicity photo)

SAVING GRACE B JONES: Connie Stevens, Evie Louise Thompson, Rylee Fansler and Tatum O’Neal (publicity photo)

But, that would be telling! From this point forward, the narrative takes on a considerably darker tone. Relating the events of the last half of the film would ruin an excellent movie if you haven’t seen it. So, just let me add these few thoughts: The acting throughout is top notch and – I could make some crack about her family and upbringing here – Tatum O’Neal displays, for the first time in a long while, the skills that made her the youngest person to ever win an Academy Award (Best Supporting Actress for 1973’s PAPER MOON). Penelope Ann Miller, as the harried sister-in-law, also delivers a solid, low-key (for the most part) performance. SAVING GRACE B JONES skillfully addresses the stigma that the mentally ill continue to face today, with a forthright depiction of the patient, as well as the problems and decisions faced by the family that loves them, while still managing to incorporate an exciting secondary story. Guys, don’t be afraid of this flick; it will actually hold your attention to the end. You may want to have a box of tissues handy, though.