Posted July 24, 2008 in Film

Though they rarely interact, Ana (Minnie Driver) and Saul (Jeremy Renner) are fixated on each other. She lost her son Jesse (Bobby Coleman); he did it and will die by lethal injection. Charles Oliver’s hushed melodrama cuts between crime day and execution day following the buildup and their present mutual emptiness. Saul is a lunkhead, not a murderer; by framing the child’s death as snowballing missteps, Oliver earns Saul sympathy at the cost of depth and conflict. There’s no shades of gray, only of beige, as both Ana and Saul have plenty of close-ups and no personality other than she’s a steely blue collar mom and he’s a hapless gambler. As the doomed tot, Coleman is realistically—not cloyingly—annoying and hyper. Driver and Renner are so restrained they’re non-existent, though there’s life in a scene where the convict chews out a priest for suggesting he trust in God’s Will. A closing play for inner peace fades into a pitch for a correctional group called Restorative Justice, a sensible program that encourages victims to confront their perps so that purse-snatcher and purse snatchee can humanize the other. Still, though their recidivism stats are convincing, it’s an odd fit for a story about a criminal who’s both well meaning and dead. (Amy Nicholson)


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