2008, Movie, R, 99 mins


A frantic mother and a desperate criminal cross paths with devastating results in first-time writer and director Charles Oliver's emotionally charged drama.

Oliver cuts back and forth between two days, the one when over-stressed mother Ana Nichols (Minnie Driver) and desperate no-hoper Saul Gregor (Jeremy Renner) met, and the one years later when their tortured relationship comes to a close. For Ana, the first day begins with a conference at her son Jesse's (Bobby Coleman) school. Bright but unfocussed, Jesse is going to be transferred to special education classes, and Ana is willing to do whatever it takes to keep him from being educationally marginalized. She'll even home school him, but that requires finding work that will pay more and offer less rigid hours than her current job with a house-cleaning service. Her day ends in a supermarket, where she takes the restless Jesse to do some last-minute shopping before they return home. Saul works at a self-storage facility and lives with his demanding disabled father (Bill McKinney). A compulsive gambler, he's $2000 in hock to local thugs and needs the money by that night; his day gets off on the wrong foot when his boss catches him conducting an unauthorized unclaimed-property auction. In one moment, Saul loses both his job and his home, a unit on the storage lot, and after a series of brutal humiliations he strikes a Faustian bargain with a shady acquaintance. Saul also winds up at the supermarket, with a gun in his hand. On the second day, Saul spends the hours leading up to his execution locked in combative conversation with a sanctimonious chaplain, while Ana makes her way to the prison to watch him die.

Driver and Renner deliver haunting performances in this story of crime and punishment rooted in the restorative justice movement, which encourages face-to-face meetings between criminals and their victims with the aim of providing both with emotional closure. The story structure fosters dread rather than suspense -- it's clear from the first few scenes what comes of Ana and Saul's fateful meeting, but the precise details are disclosed slowly. The conclusion is polarizing – some viewers will see it as redemptive, others as a cop out – but measured build up allows time for reflection and perhaps even reconsideration of pre-existing attitudes. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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