Who's In It: Maria Bello, Michael Sheen, Kyle Gallner, Alan Tudyk, Moon Bloodgood
The Basics: When Sammy (Gallner) goes on a shooting rampage at his Virginia college that ends in his suicide, it's a sadly familiar picture to us. When we've seen it unfold at any number of schools, it's safe to say that the shooter's parents are not people's first concern. This movie, however, makes those parents the subject, and it follows them around as they reconcile the gamut of emotions that come from such a tragic event. Bill (Sheen) and Kate (Bello) are just two normal people that were navigating a rough patch even before their son's death, and the aftermath just about breaks them into pieces. They scuttle from place to place, deftly avoiding the press--but they can't escape each other and their own minds.
What's The Deal: This is a tough movie to watch because it heaps everyone's heartbreak in a big pile and makes the viewer crawl through it for a couple of hours. If that's your idea of a worthwhile time at the movies, make sure to buy a ticket. Sheen and Bello bring an amazing amount of vulnerability and dignity to the film as they struggle with the death of their son and the horrible thing he did. They end up sitting inert in the middle of an emotional tornado that keeps building while they get more and more isolated from the people and world around them. The awkwardness is palpable whenever someone else comes into the frame. This movie is one I'm glad I saw once because of the great performances, but will never revisit because the emotions are so tough to process. I felt like I was a part of that family experiencing their anguish, which I was eager to leave behind.
Who's Side Is It On: The movie doesn't point fingers at anyone, and instead lets the main characters wallow in their ugly self-reflections. Did they cause this? What could they have done differently? Bello and Sheen seem to turn all of the what-ifs into circles under their eyes and cracks in their voices. I walked out of this movie feeling genuinely bad for people I had never really considered before--the people left behind after a horrible, violent massacre was caused by someone they loved. The movie lets the characters point their fingers at Sammy, but there are also moments of kindness that reflect the best possible version of the world. As usual, great pain sits aside great pleasure.
We Are Family: Alan Tudyk and Moon Bloodgood play Kate's brother and sister-in-law Eric and Trish, where Bill and Kate hide out when the press is camped on their lawn. Seeing a couple of people crashing in a guest room under such conditions was an interesting comment on family and supporting each other. Just because something awful happens doesn't mean life stops for everyone. It's still annoying that Kate is distracting herself by being super mom, but it's also understandable that when Trish grouses about it, Eric is left infuriated that she's not being more compassionate. The domino effect of intense stress affects everyone and it spreads like wildfire. Does anyone who commits a crime like Sammy's have the presence of mind to stop and think of the butterfly effect of their actions?