Along Came a Spider

Film Title

Along Came a Spider

Director

Lee Tamahori

Starring

  • Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross
  • Monica Potter as Jezzie Flanagan
  • Michael Wincott as Gary Soneji
  • Dylan Baker as Ollie McArthur

Alex Cross returns to the cinema screen, following his appearance in Kiss the Girls. Yet Along Came a Spider is not the best film as a thriller due to the way it slowly plays out and overload of twists that do it harm. Some shining moments are there, mainly an excellent Morgan Freeman and some good suspense. But sadly these traits are not enough to cover this leaky film that slowly falls apart.

Washington, D.C. Detective and forensic psychologist Alex Cross retires from the force after heading a sting operation that goes terribly wrong when his partner is killed.Along Came a Spider Poster Feeling guilty for it despite it not being his fault, Alex retreats into himself while trying to come to terms with his emotions. Meanwhile, there is something in the works that will bring Alex back into the police work once more. It all begins with the kidnapping of Megan Rose, the daughter of a senator, from her prestigious school. The man who has kidnapped her is her teacher Gary Soneji, who has complex motives that he slowly teases out. He is the one who brings Alex back into the fold by contacting him and taunting him. Special Agent Jezzie Flanagan is held accountable for the breach in security as she was the one who was keeping watch over young Megan, and she is determined to find Megan out of guilt. Brought on to the case albeit with some reluctance, Alex partnered with Jezzie and with the aid of Detective Ollie McArthur, plunges into the complex case that shows that the kidnapping of Megan was just the tip of the iceberg for Soneji. Alex CrossAlex deduces that wants to be notorious for his crimes, but there are many other unanswered questions at play. A complex game is afoot now and Alex is determined to break it. Along with Jezzie , Alex sets out to uncover the motives and reasons before it is too late. But how can you catch a criminal who seemingly wants to be known but is effortless at being elusive?

The direction is the first part of the film that makes problematic probably the best word befitting of Along Came a Spider. Lee Tamahori doesn’t seem to know a thing about pacing a thriller, although he starts strong he can’t keep any momentum up. The film slowly descends into run of the mill shenanigans and even when it does have good parts, they are sadly overshadowed by the weaknesses of the plot. Like I said, there are some good moments of suspense generated. Along Came a SpiderThese consist of the opening in which the partner of Cross is killed after the operation goes awry and a rain-soaked set piece where Alex and Jezzie are confronted with Gary Soneji. These provide two highlights of a picture, that sadly lacks a punch. And with the script, I’m all for a few twists but Along Came a Spider tangles itself into oblivion with its attempts to be clever. I must say that I enjoyed Kiss the Girls better because its story kept you involved, whereas with this film it drifts away and becomes mundane. A score from Jerry Goldsmith, who is one of my favourite film composers, is appropriately suspenseful and imaginative, injecting the film with good helpings of both which the mixed movie requires.

As flawed and up and down as Along Came a Spider proves to be, Morgan Freeman portraying Alex Cross is simply brilliant. Freeman once more plays his part with a great deal of respect and shrewd intellect, as Alex is reluctantly drawn back into his job as detective by the quite baffling and twisting case presented to him. His gravity, quietly unassuming personality and keen insight of the character is what really keeps this movie going, even when it slips into contrivance and ridiculousness. Morgan Freeman and Monica PotterAlthough I’ve seen Monica Potter in other good parts, her role as Jezzie Flanagan here is not one of them. The character is meant to be conflicted and guilt ridden, but she comes off as emotionless. Now I don’t know whether this is the fault of the script of Potter or the script, but the role just is not a good one. Even when later on they expand on her character, it’s too little too late. Michael Wincott is a lot more successful in his portrayal of the kidnapper Gary Soneji, who has motives that are hard to figure out. He isn’t an over the top villain, instead a quietly intelligent and often pitiful man with a warped world view. All of that is made clear and interesting due to Michael Wincott and his good work. In the main supporting part of the detective assigned to the case, Dylan Baker is given scant to do but remains quite memorable.

While the music, some tension and a reliable Morgan Freeman performance can be gleaned from Along Came a Spider, it is not enough to create something that will linger in the mind.

The Jungle Book

Film Title

The Jungle Book

Director

Jon Favreau

Starring

  • Neel Sethi as Mowgli
  • Ben Kingsley as Bagheera
  • Bill Murray as Baloo
  • Idris Elba as Shere Khan
  • Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha
  • Giancarlo Esposito as Akela
  • Scarlett Johansson as Kaa
  • Christopher Walken as King Louie

When I was first informed that they were doing another version of The Jungle Book, combining live action with CGI, I’ll admit to being a bit skeptical over how successful it would turn out. I’m happy to report however that this interpretation from Disney is a triumph in almost every department, while adding some new touches to the adventure tale. Trust me, you’ll be blown away by this version of the beloved story.

Mowgli is an orphaned man cub, who is raised by a pack of wolves deep in the Indian jungle. The Jungle Book 2016 PosterHe was brought there by the panther Bagheera, who watches out for the young and wild boy. While the wolves treat him as family, the leader of the pack Akela, disapproves of the boy using tricks considered human and wants him to be more like a wolf. Raksha, a female wolf acts as a strong mother figure for Mowgli and considers him her son. Yet as Mowgli grows older, the threats to him become more pronounced. The main one is the reappearance of the evil tiger Shere Khan, who strikes fear in the heart of all the other animals. Having been burned by humans in the past, Shere Khan has a deep hatred for man and seeing Mowgli vows to kill him. Fearing for the safety of young Mowgli, Akela has Bagheera take him back to a man village where it is hoped he will be safe from Shere Khan. MowgliMowgli doesn’t want to leave, but sees that the danger posed to him is great. Yet getting to that village is no easy task as Mowgli and Bagheera become separated and he must fend for himself. Thankfully he encounters Baloo, a lazy but lovable bear who he quickly forms a bond with. Yet there is peril to be found in the jungle in many forms and with Shere Khan attempting to draw him out, it comes down to Mowgli to discover where his place in life is.

Jon Favreau directs with a sure hand, crafting The Jungle Book as an entertaining yet heartfelt production of massive scope. The CGI is quite simply breathtaking and awe-inspiring, worthy of every ounce of praise that has been aimed at it. Nary a frame of The Jungle Book is wasted due to the precision of the direction and the sheer majesty of everything going on. Everything in this Disney production looks so life-like, you could almost touch it and taste it with your senses in every shot. The jungle comes alive on the screen, resplendent with dangers and adventures for young Mowgli, as well as the audience too.  In a different move, the darkness quota is significantly raised like never before. This gives The Jungle Book that something else that balances being a fun adventure with some genuine moments of danger. KaaMoments that signify this shift are plentiful; from the large snake Kaa revealing the past of Mowgli while reeling him in to a large and menacing Orangutan-resembling ape King Louie, who wishes to harness the power of fire. And the biggest one is having Shere Khan as a ferocious beast who was scarred by man and looks frightening from the very moment he appears. I must say this new direction of making things darker really impressed me because it infuses the film with probably the darkest presentation of the source material yet doesn’t forget the atmosphere of fun that children and adults alike can enjoy. The coming of age elements are brought out with deeply riveting and soulful results as Mowgli attempts to find his place. An excellent music score highlights the thrilling adventures and soul of The Jungle Book. It was also a blast hearing some of the songs from the 1967 animated version, but done in other ways to distinguish it and not make the film a remake.

Newcomer Neel Sethi, as the only physical performer in the film, is naturally convincing as the curious and rebellious Mowgli. Considering that he would have been acting against nothing, he marvellously conveys a big load of emotions and reactions that never ring false for a second. The voice cast for the animals that inhabit the jungle are expertly employed and add their own inflections to their parts. I have always found Ben Kingsley as an actor to have something of a stately presence and this feeling of authority is reflected in his voicing of Bagheera, which emanates with wisdom and firmness. The amusing and always joyful Bill Murray is inspired as the honey-guzzling Baloo, who provides the comic moments of the film with a dash of classic Murray sarcasm. Mowgli and BalooA real standout among the voices is Idris Elba as the evil Shere Khan. His booming, resonant voice utilized to maximum effect that makes the creature genuinely scary and filled with rage. Reverberating whenever he shows us, Elba’s voice is a clear winner. The assured and nurturing inflections from Lupita Nyong’o as the motherly Raksha pull out the emotional centre of the story and go a long way to creating moving results. Giancarlo Esposito has the required feelings of strength and leadership in voicing the head wolf of Akela, while the seductive voice of Scarlett Johansson colours the segment with her as Kaa the snake with a hypnotic impact. Christopher Walken’s distinctive voice is put to excellent use as the gigantic King Louie, with him sounding like something of a dodgy deal maker in the gangster mode and a menacing force. As strange as that combination sounds, it works wonderfully for this creation.

Imaginative, lushly directed and filled with something for everyone, The Jungle Book is a wonderful film in every way. Whether it’s the visuals, cast or the story, every department pulls tether to breathe fresh life into the well-known story and put a new stamp on it. I can’t think of a movie of late that has left me so thrilled and excited to talk about.

The Exorcist

Film Title

The Exorcist

Director

William Friedkin

Starring

  • Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil
  • Jason Miller as Father Karras
  • Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil
  • Lee J. Cobb as Lieutenant William Kinderman
  • Max Von Sydow as Father Merrin

Still a supernatural horror classic that retains its sense of unease, building tension and creepy goings on, The Exorcist provides all the necessary chills along with a focus on themes of faith and religion to examine deeply. Equally disturbing and gruesome, The Exorcist is brought to life under the talented direction of William Friedkin and the exceptional playing of the cast.

Chris is a famous actress who is currently on location in Georgetown filming the last parts of a movie. The Exorcist PosterHer amiable and devoted 12-year-old daughter Regan is with her and though Chris is busy, any time she gets free she so spends with her daughter. Yet strange things begin to slowly take shape after Regan plays with a Ouija board. She exhibits erratic behaviour, she swears constantly and becomes increasingly violent to those around her. Chris, obviously disturbed by all of this, takes her daughter to medical experts. Yet even after extensive tests are performed, there is no explanation for what is happening to Regan. Things get worse as her appearance continues to deteriorate and her violence increases into something very frightening. What no one knows or seems to able to fathom at this point is that Regan is possessed by a demon which takes ever more control of her day by day. Ellen Burstyn The ExorcistA distraught Chris is at the end of her rope as she tries to save her daughter from the horror she is subjected to. As a last resort, she enlists the help of Father Damian Karras, a priest who also has a degree in psychiatry. He himself is going through a crisis of faith as he reels from guilt over his mother’s death and how he wished he had been there for her more. He comes to investigate the case( after having already spoken to Lieutenant William Kinderman , who is himself looking into the strange events after the death of someone close to the family) and is shocked by his findings, as it becomes very clear that a demon has taken residence within the young girl. He considers exorcism to be a last resort, yet when is other ways of getting the demon out fail, he knows that an exorcism is what is needed. The fact is that the faith of Karras is under threat anyway so he knows that he will need to employ the expertise of someone whose faith and will is stronger than his. That person is Father Merrin, who has dealt with exorcism in the past and despite getting on in age, is strong when it comes to doing battle with evil forces. Yet could this case of possession be a step too far for Father Merrin?  Whatever the case, it’s going to take every ounce of strength within both men to drive this demon out.

I think many people tend to focus on the graphic and gruesome parts of The Exorcist, forgetting that the build up as orchestrated by Friedkin is actually just as effective. Regan MacNeilHe cranks up the tension in the early stretches as the behaviour of Regan changes, yet doesn’t rush anything. This may surprise many who may have not seen the film and believe it is a scare a minute movie. If anything the scares of The Exorcist are generated by the pain of the characters as well as the horror that colours the second half of the movie. Friedkin’s work is utterly marvellous in the ways it taps into deep fears of loss of faith and the safety of a child, observed best in the pursuit of Chris to save her daughter and the two priests doing everything they can to reclaim her soul from the clutches of evil. Without the arresting direction and measured build up from Friedkin, The Exorcist would have nowhere near the amount of creepy impact it has. By slowly suggesting the horror that will come, when in the last act it lets loose it is damn terrifying to witness. And like with any film of a certain age some of the special effects lessen, The Exorcist surprisingly still stands up in that department; mainly because there is the story underneath it all to back up the gory and malevolent spirit of the piece. And memorable scenes are found in abundance throughout the running of The Exorcist. The Exorcist SceneRegan’s transformation into a foul-mouthed demon that is scarred and vomit’s bile, the arrival of Father Merrin displayed as a lone light casts his shadow on the house where he must confront evil and the climactic exorcism that will no doubt give you shudders of terror. I could go on listing the iconic moments of the film, but then this review would become boring. The use of sound in this film is pretty marvellous, with an ambient atmosphere crafted from the humming but ominous music.

With the script allowing us to get know the characters throughout, the actors present do a commendable job in their respective roles. Ellen Burstyn is marvellous in the part of the terrified mother trying to save her daughter from the darkness. Burstyn delves deep into the pain and shock of the character with intelligence, that helps transfer her maternal fears for her daughter on to the audience in the process. Jason Miller brings a sadness and pathos to Father Karras, who has to face emotional and quite literal demons as his faith comes under fire in the increasing horror of the situation. Then of course there is Linda Blair as the initially friendly Regan whose personality morphs into unspeakable evil when she’s possessed. Regan PossessedLargely covered in grotesque make up and confined to a bed for most of the performance, Blair considering how young she was at the time really gives a startling performance of frightening intensity. Part of why it’s so effective is how Blair shows the cherubic niceness of Regan in the beginning that is warm and sweet, then once possessed a force of physical and psychological terror. It really adds a lot to the performance and makes the film in general a great deal more terrifying. Lee J. Cobb plays the part of the wily detective investigating the goings on when murder strikes and he does so with an observational quality and sprinkle of humour. And then there is Max Von Sydow as the eponymous exorcist. His role is a small but incredibly pivotal one that he infuses with dignity and wisdom even as his beliefs are tested by the demon in front of him.

A macabre and deeply unsettling horror film, it’s not hard to discern why The Exorcist is held in such high regard. It simply is a creepy exercise in shocking terror that doesn’t forget the characters and has enough food for thought to last a long time.

Norma Rae

Film Title

Norma Rae

Director

Martin Ritt

Starring

  • Sally Field as Norma Rae Webster
  • Ron Leibman as Reuben Warshowsky
  • Beau Bridges as Sonny Webster
  • Pat Hingle as Vernon
  • Barbara Baxley as Leona

An inspiring movie that takes basis from a true story, Norma Rae is refreshingly realistic and filled with a deep heart, best embodied by the bravura work of Sally Field that garnered her many awards of which she was more than deserving of.

Norma Rae Webster works in a cotton mill in North Carolina, just like almost everyone in her small town including her aging mother and father. Norma Rae PosterThe place is one that is defined by one industry and it’s almost expected that everyone will work there at one point. Norma is a woman with a reputation in the past of drinking and going from one abusive relationship to the next, as well as having children by different fathers which many people take issue with. She has recently married Sonny who is supportive yet chauvinistic and boorish on occasion. The mill that she works in has taken its toll on both her mother and father over the years and despite not being the most educated person, she is starting to realise the unfairness and harsh treatment from management. Around this time, New York Union organizer Reuben Warshowsky arrives and begins talking of better working conditions, which alarms both management and workers. At the beginning, Norma Rae has resided herself to the fact that she’ll likely always work at the mill, yet with Reuben around and after hearing one of his speeches, she starts to reconsider what she though she knew. Reuben and Norma RaeOver time and quickly inspired by Reuben, Norma Rae realises that she can’t simply stand back while these poor conditions continue and while originally reluctant to get involved with Reuben, she slowly gets on board with him and starts to see potential in herself as she grows stronger. With growing confidence and bravery to stand up for herself from Reuben, Norma starts a fight for better conditions and Union, even though she is threatened by her bosses, alienated from her husband and shunned by many of her co-workers. Norma finally gets her chance to make a difference in her role as leader and agitator begins to get significant attention.

Martin Ritt infuses Norma Rae with unfussy direction that closely looks at the heroine’s growth and the horrifying conditions of her work. His intimate camera pans over the sheer amount of demeaning work everyone at the mill is put through with the feel of a documentary, never forgetting that the film takes its basis from a true story. Ritt knows exactly how to mix depth of character, politics and inspiring tones as Norma fights for Union despite vast opposition from nearly everyone a around her. Sally Field Norma RaeMartin Ritt brings a minimalism to the film that places us within the film, never letting us forget the basis of the story and the grit provided from what we witness. A well constructed script strikes the right chords of seriousness and emotion; allowing us to journey with the title character. Also refreshing is while there is something of an attraction between Norma and Reuben, it doesn’t dissolve into an affair which marks it as something different due to the fact that the attraction is more one of admiration than passion. In the odd area, Norma Rae couldn’t have been tightened up a bit but this is a very minor flaw in a pretty effective and moving picture. The music is sparse which lets the audience focus on the unfolding story more, yet the haunting title song ‘It Goes like it Goes’ provides the perfect opening and close to the film.

The ace in the hole is Sally Field, who won a much deserved Oscar for her turn as the evolving title character. I liked the way that Field revealed that Norma is no saint but whose heart and growing strength act as arsenal for her as she slowly becomes a fighter in a marvellous transformation. Norma Rae UnionShe makes Norma Rae a relatable character because of how she doesn’t go out to make her a too good to be true heroine, instead painting her as an ordinary woman discovering her worth. It’s an authentic, emotion driven performance that shows Field at her best as there isn’t a beat that she misses when playing Norma, who unearths a power in herself that she never know was there. I can’t speak any more highly of Field’s award-winning turn here, other than to say that she is nothing short of heroic in a tour de force performance. Ron Leibman provides stellar support as the stirring Reuben, who sees potential and strength in Norma Rae, as well as boasting a quick-witted way of taking down opposition. In the part of Norma’s husband, who suspects that her alliance with Reuben is something more, Beau Bridges is appropriately concerned and meaning well, but hampered by his masculine tendencies and big attitude to question what his wife is up to. Pat Hingle and Barbara Baxley respectively play Norma’s parents, whose health has declined due to their torturous work at the mill.

Rousing yet grounded and touched with straightforward but emotive direction, Norma Rae is an excellent movie that shows the true courage of one woman no one thought much of and Sally Field at the peak of her powers in the role of the eponymous character.

Eye for an Eye

Film Title

Eye for an Eye

Director

John Schlesinger

Starring

  • Sally Field as Karen McCann
  • Kiefer Sutherland as Robert Doob
  • Ed Harris as Mack McCann
  • Joe Mantegna as Detective Joe Denillo

A dramatic thriller, Eye for an Eye starts strong yet quickly goes off course and becomes sub-par. Considering it had potentially thought-provoking material dealing with failed justice and what could happen if we were to contemplate revenge, Eye for an Eye unfortunately lays on the ridiculousness that ultimately undoes it.

Karen McCann has a great husband in Mack, a good job and two daughters in Julie(from her previous marriage) and Megan. Yet her world is turned upside down by savage events that unfold on her youngest daughter’s birthday. Stuck in a horrendous traffic jam, she calls Julie to tell her that she’s going to be late. Eye for an Eye Film PosterWhile on the phone, Julie answers the door to someone who begins attacking the girl, leading to rape and finally her death. Horrified, Karen here’s everything on the phone and is frozen in terror. She then tries to find help, eventually contacting the police. Completely inconsolable when she’s informed of her daughter’s graphic murder, Karen refuses to move on with her life despite the best efforts of her supportive husband to guide her through the unimaginable grief. During this time, one Robert Doob is arrested for the murder of Julie, thanks to the work of Detective Joe Denillo, who is confident that they have a case. Karen thinks this will bring closure as the disgusting Doob will pay for what he did, but she is wrong as it doesn’t turn out that way. Due to a technicality with one piece of evidence, the snarling Doob who it is obvious is the culprit gets off and is now free. This completely shocks Karen and Mack, but most of all Karen who begins to dangerously obsess about Doob. She starts to follow the psychopathic man, detailing his movements and day-to-day activities. Mack, who wants to grieve in his own way and slowly move on, begins to suspect his wife is slipping into obsession, but his actions are futile as his wife won’t listen to him. Meanwhile at the same time, Karen discovers that within the counsel group that she has been attending, there are a few who failed by justice engineer vigilante killings and training. Devastated beyond belief by the cruel murder of her daughter and the inability for anyone to do anything, Karen quietly joins this covert group and begins planning her next move. Kiefer Sutherland Eye for an EyeYet Doob is still hanging around and is likely to strike again, which firmly makes up Karen’s mind of what she’ll do next. Slowly her rage and disillusion with the legal system completely spill over and she begins to plan killing Doob for all the pain he has caused her. The main question is can Karen really go through with killing him knowing that the consequences could be dire for her if she does?

John Schlesinger may not be at his very best here, but his expertise are competent enough despite how riddled the film is with flaws. Some good tension is generated from his direction, yet even that isn’t enough to make Eye for an Eye a credible movie. Instead of taking a route that could have probed deep questions, Eye for an Eye settles for full on revenge mode as it carries on, without so much as a question of actions or implications. Eye for an Eye MovieThe film may have been a lot better if the issues of vigilantism and the frailty of justice through people’s eyes were presented with significantly more clarity and moral standpoint. Which brings me on to the problematic nature of what Eye for an Eye is trying to be, or in this case doesn’t know what it wants to be. If it was attempting to be a complex thriller posing controversial questions, it doesn’t succeed because a lot of the decisions that the script has the characters make are without thought of repercussion. And when it comes to the scenes of violence and rape there are times when it borders on gratuitous and exploitative. Eye for an Eye just never digs deep enough to bring out the themes it could have explored much better. A rather uninspired score does little to bolster any of the film.

One part of Eye for an Eye that can’t be criticized is the acting, which is one of the few things that keeps you watching despite the problematic source material. Sally Field Eye for an EyeIn the main role of the vengeful Karen, Sally Field is ideally cast. Always a strong performer in my eyes, Field imbues the film with a lot more emotion than the by the numbers script had and is powerful throughout. Filled with inconsolable rage and deep sadness that won’t be contained, Sally Field does a stellar job in this film that lifts it to watchable level. She deserved a better film to showcase her skills but her performance here is outstanding and emotionally convincing. Kiefer Sutherland is excellent as the utterly repellent as the murderer/rapist and its a testament to his talents as an actor that the audience feels complete and utter revulsion for him. Providing solid support is the ever dependable Ed Harris whose stoic emotions and firm dedication to his wife are put under threat due to her need for justice. Given little to do but still pretty good is Joe Mantegna as the detective growing concerned about Karen’s actions.

Despite the great cast it boasts, Eye for an Eye is simply a waste of a film that had possibly provocative and serious topics to present maturely and with balance. But instead of that, it can’t provide either dramatic impact or topical discussion on the subject of taking the law into one’s own hands.

Check Your Balls

Even though my blog primarily focuses on movies, I sometimes like to talk about other things of a serious nature. So today, I’m talking to all the male followers of my blog about testicular cancer. I feel that every guy out there should check themselves daily just to see if there is any difference in their testicles. I had a scare a few years back that thankfully wasn’t anything too serious, but ever since I’ve been sure to check for any lumps and bumps. It’s better being safe than sorry in my book. So all you guys out there, please check for any changes in your balls and even if it turns out to be nothing, visit your doctor just to be certain. It’s a simple task that may just save your life. I’m glad that I went to the doctor all those years ago as it made me more vigilant. The way I see it, be clever like these guys below who protect their middle stump and support men checking regularly. For those who don’t know who these guys are, they are English cricketers who posed for this photo to raise awareness of testicular cancer.

Check Your Balls

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

Film Title

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

Director

Nicolas Gessner

Starring

  • Jodie Foster as Rynn Jacobs
  • Martin Sheen as Frank Hallet
  • Scott Jacoby as Mario
  • Alexis Smith as Mrs. Hallet
  • Mort Shuman as Officer Miglioriti

An unusual thriller/mystery, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane benefits from building direction that slowly reveals darkness and a mature performance from a young Jodie Foster.

In the seaside town of Wells Harbor, Maine, a young girl named Rynn Jacobs celebrates her thirteenth birthday alone in her father’s large house. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane PosterRynn is an independent and extremely mature girl who is self-reliant( she regularly collects money from a safe deposit box and learns from home) and is regularly seen without any parental figure. No one knows where her father is and Rynn when asked tells them that he is either away or busy with his poetry writing. These suspicious action surrounding Rynn, who appears to enjoy being by herself and providing for herself, arouse the interest of many people. Chief among these is Frank Hallet, the adult son of the landlady, who is a predatory man with a sick fascination for young girls. He pesters young Rynn who drives him away with her excuses. Soon enough the bossy and snotty Mrs. Hallet comes knocking and is desperate to know where the girl’s father is. Wanting to be alone and angry at those who intrude, Rynn tries to get rid of the woman who won’t leave. Mrs. Hallet wants to collect something she left in the cellar and despite the warnings of Rynn enters it, only to find something shocking and accidentally knocks the wedge that keeps the door open and fatally injures herself. Rynn just goes about her business, but soon realises that she must get rid of evidence that could put her in trouble with the authorities. The Little Girl Who Lives Down The LaneLuckily, she encounters teenager Mario, an amateur magician who takes a liking to the mysterious girl. Helping her dispose of evidence and the body, Mario is puzzled but entranced by Rynn, and she despite always being alone, likes his company. Yet Rynn is guarding a much bigger secret than anyone imagined and as the neighbours become more curious about her( in particular the creepy Frank and inquisitive officer Miglioriti), we see just what she is willing to do to retain her solidarity and the depths of her capabilities.

On the directing front, Nicolas Gessner balances both intrigue and mystery in an unfussy yet beneficial way that draws you into the strange little story at play. He adeptly and astutely doesn’t play to mystery clichés too much and successfully throws in moments of unexpectedness that you don’t see coming. Gessner knows when to reveal just enough to keep us dangling, before keeping us at a distance to further the enigma surrounding Rynn and her secret. Mario and RynnAs much as The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is a mystery, it’s also something of an unusual coming of age. Rynn is a girl who thinks and acts like she’s a lot older, yet is not there yet and still doesn’t understand certain things that a grown up would. This in turn adds to the dichotomy of the character as she is oddly innocent during various parts, and then complicated and perhaps not there emotionally in others. There are a few stretches that may have benefited from a bit of trimming, but all in all, The Little Girl Who Live Down the Lane has good pacing that keeps us invested and startled by what we discover. The often bouncy score purposely acts in opposition to the creepy nature of the film to marvellous effect. And when the sparse score isn’t present(which is for quite a few important parts) the film gains an upper hand on the viewer as without the music, we are made to be more curious about what unravels and in particular what Rynn is really up to.

Making a huge impression and one of the film’s best assets is a young Jodie Foster as the self-reliant Rynn, who is much more than what she seems. Jodie Foster Little Girl Who Lives Down the LaneWith her angelic face and mature demeanor, Foster strikes the perfect balance in the role: Rynn appears so innocent yet mysterious and we never quite know what to make of her as she continues to assert that her father is away in order to keep her independent living. Foster never lets us forget that the character is still a child, despite her grown up actions and that somewhere in her mind she isn’t emotionally mature for adulthood. The sense of ambiguity in her work lends itself well to the performance and Jodie Foster even at a young age, shows the depths of her talents with a complex, strangely sympathetic and strikingly mature portrayal of a girl who isn’t as wholesome as her looks would have you believe. Martin Sheen as Frank HalletIn the part of the sexual predator who takes an interest in Rynn, Martin Sheen makes your skin crawl with his performance that really knows how to unnerve you with a twisted grin here or a sleazy glance there. It shows off his talent as an actor and how damn effective he can be. Scott Jacoby makes for an amiable companion for Rynn who she starts to trust, even though he doesn’t quite know what to make of the girl and her actions. In the small but memorable part of the ill-fated Mrs. Hallet, Alexis Smith is cutting and opinionated before her eventual demise due to her nosiness. Mort Shuman is probably the only other person in the film that really has a caring side as he watches out for Rynn yet can’t shake the feeling that something is very wrong.

A mystery that takes quite a few different paths and knows when to wrong foot the audience, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is strange yet intriguing film making that fills the screen with tension and confined space, while showcasing the exceptional talent of Jodie Foster.