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Brian De Palma
This film asks, and, to its credit, does not answer questions about madness, community responsibility, and the moral judgment of children as opposed to adults. It begins with a young girl packed up for a visit with her small-town grandparents by her urban Mother. Her grandfather's household includes his mentally ill son, his son's wife, and their son with whom the girl has a close relationship. Her uncle, is a quiet gentle man who can't handle the absurdities of life. He fixes watches for a living and embarrasses the family by his unorthodox/childish reactions to things that bother him. His son and niece idolize the purity of his world, his sensitivity, and his kindness. The resent his treatment by his wife, and the niece suspects his wife is having an affair with a neighbor.
Among the issues addressed are forcing a local Amish population to send their children to public school, the life of an embittered old woman who provides witch spells to the girl's young cousin, and the betrayal of confidence that destroys two relationships over the course of the film. No relief is given to adults or children in the way of clear answers other than the fragility of friendship and trust, and the imprecise definition of right and wrong in human affairs. This film was probably intended for a young adult audience, but it takes a deeper look into moral questions than most adult dramas I can remember and is one of the most thought-provoking community and family studies I have ever seen.
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