'Just Like the Son' full of great heart, subtle edginess
Who knows what keeps "Just Like the Son," a gem of a film, from being picked for mainstream distribution. This story has great heart and a subtle edginess that stands up well against the in-your-face edginess that dominates filmmaking choices.
Director Morgan J. Freeman (no, not that Morgan Freeman) deftly introduces his main character, a boyish 20-year-old being bailed out of jail, yet again, by his father. Throughout the film, we watch this likable young man exercise a series of bad judgments.
While doing community service in lieu of prison, this man-child meets a 6-year-old in an elementary school rest room:
"Are you the new janitor?"
"I'm not a janitor."
"You're wearing a janitor's suit."
"That doesn't make me a janitor."
"Then what are you?"
"Right now, I'm just a guy washing his hands."
The initial twinkle of connection blossoms into a wonderfully warm buddy picture. The 6-year-old, adorable in an unpolished way, never had a dad and in effect has no mom. The young man feels a loving involvement in the child's welfare and feels, for the first time in his life, something that really means something to what he is. Good heart notwithstanding, the ensuing road trip can only be labeled kidnapping.
One obstacle to reaching a wide audience is a lack of the big-name actors. Rosie Perez, the only familiar Hollywood face, plays a nice, low-key part for her. As a school principal, she helps to ground the reality of the film. Her character's routine judgment calls, in less than ideal circumstances, are reflective of the judgments that underscore the film.
"Just Like the Son" is a mature telling about an immature young man and the boy who makes him feel like an adult. Charm shines from the faces and body language of this feel-good pairing.
The Nevada City Film Festival (www.nevadacityfilmfestival.com) begins its seventh year with "Just Like the Son" at 7 p.m., Aug. 16, at the Nevada Theatre in Nevada City. Expanding for the first time beyond the confines of the Magic Theatre, the feature, "Just Like the Son," plus a visually brilliant five-minute short called "Tyger," is a great way to grow devotion to a fast-maturing film festival.