Friday, November 03, 2006

Just Like the Son Gets Great Early Buzz at 21st Ft. Lauderdale Film Festival

JUST LIKE THE SON (reprinted from today's Miami Herald)
Independent filmmakers often describe their movies as labors of love, even though the films themselves can look like cynical calling cards to the Hollywood film industry. But the coming-of-age drama Just Like the Son genuinely feels like one from the heart. The story centers on Daniel (Mark Webber), a trouble-prone 20-year-old sentenced to community service at an elementary school after his latest arrest for thievery.

Under the supervision of the school's principal (Rosie Perez), Daniel befriends 6-year-old Boone (Antonio Ortiz), a cherubic kid with a giant-sized afro and a single mom struggling with terminal illness. When his mother is hospitalized, Boone is shipped off to a state orphanage -- a resolution Daniel finds unacceptable.

So instead, Daniel steals a car, ''kidnaps'' the willing Boone and heads out on a road trip to Dallas, in hopes of reuniting the boy with his older sister. Writer-director Morgan J. Freeman, whose 1997 debut Hurricane Streets also centered on disaffected youth trying to find their way to adulthood, devotes most of Just Like the Son to the bond that develops between Daniel and Boone. Well played by Webber and Ortiz, the two boys become a would-be father-son team in which the father is still figuring out how to become a responsible, self-sufficient adult.

Unlike most road movies, Just Like the Son doesn't throw too many misadventures at its protagonists: Instead, the film settles for allowing Daniel and Boone to get to know each other and form the kind of familial relationship that's missing in their own lives. Sweet and tender without being sentimental or cloying, it's the kind of personal, heartfelt picture that gives indie films a good name. -- R.R.

Mark Webber, Antonio Ortiz, Brendan Sexton III, Rosie Perez
Writer-director: Morgan J. Freeman
Producers: Gill Holland, Jamin O'Brien, Matthew Parker
90 minutes. Vulgar language, adult themes. Plays at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and 9 p.m. Nov. 14 at Cinema Paradiso.


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