The Stone Boy (1984) Poster


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Powerful, Moving, Compassionate Film
jdrew17 July 2002
The Stone Boy is a tragedy of Midwestern stoicism in the face of inconsolable grief. Arnold accidentally shoots his brother and is frozen out by his family, with the exception of his grandfather. The process for everyone is painful to watch, but handled very quietly. I was very reminded of Tender Mercies, another great Robert Duvall film. It is drama at its best and a film I recommend highly.
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a quiet, realistic, well acted and written family drama
robertedward17 August 2003
I had seen this film way back in the 80's and had nearly forgotten it when I noticed it was on tv again and watched it. I remembered having liked this little sleeper when I first saw it, and I liked it even better on second viewing.

All of the actors, especially Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Wilfred Brimley, Frederic Forrest, and Jason Presson (as the twelve-year-old boy who feels responsible for the accidental shooting death of his older brother), are superb. The film has a very genuine feel to it--an understated, quiet, deeply moving story of a family aching with grief. The dialogue is sparse but telling, and the nonverbal acting is outstanding. Sort of like a simpler, rural version of Ordinary People sans psychiatrist but equally impressive family dynamics.

The Stone Boy is well worth the time and emotional energy involved in watching it.
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Very touching, unusual--May contain spoiler
jambos11 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
I don't think a movie like this would be released today. It takes it's time to present the depth of the characters and the plot isn't full of twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat.

But, what this film does have: an interesting study in how families' deal with grief. How when the language for healing and over-coming tremendous loss leaves us mute, and we rely on raw emotions instead. Grief without reason and patience is anger, even hate. And unfortunately, the lead character (a young boy who accidently shoots and kills his brother while hunting) in the film is given more than his fair share of it. He eventually leaves and moves in with his grandfather (Wilford Brimley) who makes it clear to him that it WAS an accident. I got the impression that this young man knew that in his heart, but needed to hear those words from his parents, and to receive their forgiveness.

What I loved about this film: the lack of dialog. There was a tremendous emphasis on physical reaction, facial expressions. And the slower pace of the film allows you to really watch the reactions of the actors. Something we don't get to do alot of with today's films.
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Slow and Thoughtful
Here's yet another film from the 80's that most people just don't know exists. This slow, picturesque (the loving shots of the Montana landscapes are breathtaking and reminded me of Costner's recent "Open Range", which also starred Robert Duval), and emotionally satisfying film is the perfect type of movie to watch late one night when you can't sleep or on a listless Sunday afternoon. Those in the right mood will be treated to a finely detailed and intimate look at the grief of one family and how they come back together after the youngest son accidentally shoots and kills the eldest son while hunting. The performances are all top notch and quietly nuanced. Glenn Close, Robert Duval, and Wilford Brimley are pitch perfect in their portrayals, as are all the supporting players and young actors. I especially liked how director Cain (who unfortunately hasn't directed anything of note since this except the first "Young Guns") gives us quiet little glimpses into everyone's personal grief. We don't just see how the death effects the younger brother or the parents, but also the confused middle sister, the wayward uncle, his crazy wife, and the dead teenager's girlfriend. What we essentially get here is the rural Mid-Western answer to "Ordinary People." There's also shades of David Lynch's "The Straight Story" in some of the stoic downhome Mid-West morality of the folks depicted here and also in the lovingly haunting shots of the farmland they inhabit. This is one of the better and more realistic "tear-jerkers" of the era, and a nice little find for you quality movie hunters out there.
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Great cast in an emotional film.
TOMASBBloodhound20 March 2008
The Stone Boy is an almost forgotten drama from the 1980s. Considering how many famous or soon to be famous people are in the film, one wonders how it could have been so overlooked. This is a slow, moody, but touching account of a tragedy that befalls a farm family. The film is more or less an indictment of Midwestern stoic values and suppression of emotion. The film will not be for all tastes, but anyone who can appreciate real human drama should like it OK.

In the early moments of the film, we see two brothers head off in the early morning hours to pick some peas and maybe shoot a duck or two if they're lucky. While climbing through a barbed wire fence, the gun accidentally discharges and the younger boy fatally shoots his older brother. These boys have apparently never taken a hunter safety course. The way for two men to properly go through a fence like this with one gun would be as follows: First man climbs through. Second man then passes him the gun through the fence. The first man then sets the gun down and helps the other through the fence. At no time should either man have his hands on both the gun and the fence.

Anyway, once his brother is killed, 12-yr-old Arnold regresses into his own world. He does not even run for help after his brother is shot. He simply goes ahead and picks the peas and tells his family about the accident later. At no point during the funeral or inquest does Arnold seem to show any regret or sorrow at all. His family seems to shun him. Perhaps they are even angry at him for killing his brother. An ornery uncle played by Frederick Forrest is outwardly upset with Arnold, even though the older brother's death allows him to hit on the kid's girlfriend. Arnold's parents don't seem to understand how to deal with their son. They really don't even try to talk to him. About the only person he can communicate with is his grandfather who is played in typical grandfatherly skill by Wilford Brimley. After a while, Arnold even moves in with the old timer.

Nothing seems to get Arnold to open up until he takes a bizarre road trip to Reno Nevada to inexplicably look up his uncle's ex-wife. Once he meets her, he begins to emerge from his shell after apologizing to her for breaking up her marriage by starting all of the family's turmoil with the accident. From here on, the film becomes a quick study in reconciliation and reawakening.

The acting is hauntingly distant in most cases. Robert Duvall and Glenn Close make the perfect stoic farm parents. Forrest is good, but maybe trying too hard to channel Paul Newman's performance in Hud. The cinematography is exceptional, too. If you like moody pictures about common folk, this one may be for you. Some even may be advised to bring some tissues. 8 of 10 stars.

The Hound.
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Very interesting (but slow moving).
Sean Richard McCarthy18 February 2001
12 year old Arnald Hillerman accidentally kills his older brother Eugene. His feelings are arrested by the fact that his family can not interact with him (or feel it is not the right thing to do). His ONLY refuge is his grandfather, who is the ONLY one who seems to have compassion on him. The Realism will captivate "true-2-life" movie lovers, but will not satisfy those that desire action & thrills.
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Sometimes, I wish I could just wander away. I don't mean go buy a ticket, get on a bus. I just mean, wander away.
Steve Skafte23 February 2010
It's hard to say sometimes why exactly a film is so effective. From the moment I first came across "The Stone Boy", something told me it would be a great film. In spite of that, it seemed very unlikely that I'd ever have the opportunity to actually see it for myself. Then, one day, while looking through the online catalogue of my local library, I saw that they had recently purchased the DVD release of this film. Which I'm extremely glad for, because the cinematography is of a stunning depth and quality that an old VHS copy could never replicate.

And speaking of the cinematography, I must single it out as far and above the most stunning aspect of this film. As a photographer who pursues very nearly the exact visual style portrayed in "The Stone Boy", I'm a firm believer in the fact that a great cinematographer can almost single-handedly carry a film. Here, he has a lot of help from an extremely talented cast, and a director who understands perfectly what the story needs. But to have Juan Ruiz Anchía behind the camera makes virtually every scene something of beauty. And you can almost never say that. Most films would never even expect such a thing of you. Scene after scene captures some detail, some little bit of visual magic that takes your breath away.

The director, Christopher Cain, has had a long and interesting career. As far as I can gather, this film is not very representative of it. But, sometimes, to catch a director near the beginnings of his career, before all the big budgets and loss of focus, there's a real subtle magic to be found. Cain steps back in this film, lets things happen with a life of their own, and then ever further. Much like early John Sayles films, characters are given space to breathe, time to talk. Side stories happen because they do, and that's how life is. Cain displays a remarkable, raw, even outright painful understanding of human nature in this film.

The acting ties much of this story together. When people talk, when they exist in this film, they do so as actual people, not held back by the fact that they are playing characters. Gina Berriault's script allows immensely talented and respected actors like Wilford Brimley, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, and Frederic Forrest to spend time simply existing. Whether the things they have to say are minor or of deep significance, it all comes down with the weight of pure reality.

When you look at the actors involved, or the great soundtrack by James Horner, it seems strange that such a film be very nearly forgotten. Maybe much of what makes "The Stone Boy" what it is was the time period it was made in. There's this 1970s hangover feeling to this picture that reminds me deeply of my own childhood. People talk of the 80s in terms of modern styles and music, but that's not the 80s I lived in or remember. The look of the images, the understated and dark knowing quality of the acting, and the overall result should get under the skin of any person who grew up in or near this era of time in rural North America. I see myself in this. I see how I saw the world. And a film like "The Stone Boy" sees the world for how it truly is.

For more of this feeling, please see:

The Black Stallion (1979), Never Cry Wolf (1983), Tender Mercies (1983), Testament (1983), Places in the Heart (1984), Matewan (1987), High Tide (1987), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), The Secret Garden (1993), The Secret of Roan Inish (1994), Wendy and Lucy (2008)
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Sealed-off from emotion...
moonspinner554 December 2008
Rural family drama--with perhaps a nod to "Ordinary People"--concerns a young boy who withdraws into himself after fatally wounding his older brother in a shooting mishap. Despite downbeat subject matter (given mercilessly glum treatment by director Christopher Cain), there are some dynamics in this sad story worth exploring. Unfortunately, the isolated farmland atmosphere and the reluctance of the adult characters to take charge of the situation render the movie a stultifying experience. What with Robert Duvall, Glenn Close and Wilford Brimley in the line-up, the picture is nearly a cast reunion of "The Natural". Too bad this project didn't get the necessary talent behind the camera to really eke out a gripping, memorable picture. *1/2 from ****
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Little-known film worth remembering
lightninboy24 April 2005
This movie probably never made a blip on the radar screen, but it's got quite a bit of quality. It's pretty lifelike, yet you think "It's only a movie." Duvall and Close portray common people, and you'd never even realize they are now big-name actors. It seems that the jerk in this story is a little too old to be chasing Eugene's girlfriend, but I guess it's possible. It seems unlikely that the kid would travel from Montana to Nevada by himself, but I guess it's possible. You might think that the family troubles in this movie would never happen in your own family, but I guess it's possible. I remember Glenn Close saying something like "You think the work you do is the hardest part of your life, but it isn't."
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A strangely quiet but communicative film
PeachHamBeach25 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Honestly, I find this film almost too depressing for my own good. It is VERY depressing until pretty much the very end. There is no way I can justify passing judgement to any character who did things I didn't like (well, except for the disgusting character played by Fredrick Forrest). But it's still so frustrating to see people behaving this way, putting up walls around themselves when just a word or so could break the ice and promote healing.

A horrible tragedy strikes a Montana family. They believe they've lost one son, but it turns out they've lost 2. The key is, if they just communicate and face their grief together, they won't end up losing their second son permanently.

But they just can't. Something is blocking this family from sharing their sorrows. Some family retreat into silence and resentment while certain others point fingers of blame (and then go ahead and cheat on their poor pregnant wife by seducing the pretty girlfriend of the deceased...that Andy character truly is a snake!) The only member of the family that isn't threatening Arnold in some way is his Grandpa (Wilford Brimley). Grandpa seems to be able to speak to the boy without judgements or even kid gloves. He seems to know what the child is thinking about even though Arnold isn't saying much these days. It is truly a blessing for the poor kid to have that one someone he can turn to. No one else seems to grasp the fact that Arnold might be in shock, in denial, or that his way of grieving may not be the same style, or at the same speed, as they would expect. It's so easy to judge and to be angry and to feel someone is "made of stone" just because they don't grieve in a way we believe they ought.

The story is very quiet and naturalistic. You're not going to get some spoon-fed narration or some Hollywood feel-good resolution. I was very concerned by the fact that this child was so burdened with guilt that he felt it necessary to hitchhike several hundred miles to apologize to that piggy Andy's wife, for something he should not blame himself for. Arnold may have accidentally killed his brother, but nobody is responsible for the end of that marriage, which apparently was a lousy one anyway, except for the two people in the marriage. It's only dumb luck Arnold didn't get into the car with a pedophile or a murderer.

Robert Duvall and Glenn Close are frustratingly effective as the parents who somehow cannot find it in themselves to communicate with their son, to find out what Arnold is going through. Jason Presson, whom I've not seen anywhere else except for a childhood favorite called EXPLORERS and a creepy ghost story called THE LADY IN WHITE, did an incredible job as Arnold, a great performance from a child actor.

Aside from being somewhat slow at times, THE STONE BOY is an excellent, and very depressing movie.
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Heart-wrenching tear-jerker, but moving and eventually heart-warming
bthcrlsol9 April 2003
Both Robert Duvall and Glenn Close played their roles with such believability, I simply cried. Glenn Close's role as Ruth, showed her wanting to deal with the situation, but she was under the domination of her husband. "Let him think about what he did," Robert Duvall's character, Joe, said staunchly. The story depicted a rural family dealing with an accidental death of a son by his brother, called "The Stone Boy," meaning he was so distraught and overwhelmed by what he did, he became emotionally paralyzed. Then towards the end when Jason Presson's character, Arnold, let it all out to a stranger, I was so broken hearted for him, that I actually thought of some of the terrible things that I did in my life. I personalized and identified with his character. Frederick Forrest's and Gail Youngs' roles, did NOT add not much to the film. I thought of Frederick Forrest, who played Ruth's antagonistic, womanizing brother, Andy, as a jerk who did nothing to try to help the situation. His wife, Lou, played by Gail Youngs, acted like a crazy-lady smacking Arnold around out of frustration with her own problems without pity and blaming him for her troubles. I could NOT really feel sorry for these two. Though Lou tried to keep her marriage together, she was unsuccessful. Both did NOT deal with their problems effectively. They really did NOTHING for the film and were totally ridiculous. Wilfred Brimley's minor role as the grandfather was, touching for he was the only character that showed Arnold any attention. I felt his role should have been elaborated. The players were just doing what they felt was adequate and sufficient. However, I really liked the ending so much, I actually smiled and cried tears of joy. I felt good. The Hillermans were a family again. I actually wanted to be a part of this family. They were so realistic.
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Sensitive story with a prodigy young actor
Atreyu_II21 November 2011
This American rural drama about a young boy who accidentally shoots his older brother deserves to be better known. Unfortunately it isn't perfect but, despite its flaws, when it's good it's really good. Beautifully filmed and photographed, with gorgeous rural landscapes and settings. The soundtrack by James Horner is very moving and matches the movie's dramatic mood.

Jasson Presson steals the show as the title character, in a far superior and more remarkable role than his role in the flawed hit 'Explorers'. Not that there is anything wrong with his performance in the famous 1985 film, it's just that here is another league.

This movie shows very well that not everyone suffers the same way. Each has their own way of suffering. Some act funny but that doesn't mean that they really mean that. In tragic circumstances, it's actually normal to act a little crazy. That's the case of our Arnold, who is seemingly indifferent to the tragedy he unintentionally caused, but in reality is suffering so much that he takes time to really let it out.

Some scenes shouldn't be here. I think the movie takes too long focusing on Arnold's family's own problems when Arnold himself should be the focus. Also, there are a few severe scenes to watch, such as family's discussions and one girl yelling at Arnold and slapping him.
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A Very Emotional Look at Tragedy in the Family
PartialMovieViewer26 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A thoughtful script masterfully performed by a very talented cast. Christopher Cain does an outstanding job directing Robert Duvall and Glenn Close through a horrible family struggle. A son is killed in a hunting accident by his brother. One can just imagine the horror felt by all family members. The cast is a stellar collection of veterans and novices, all dealing with this very personal struggle in very different ways. This important work needs to be seen from beginning to end. Very rarely are movies like this made anymore. There are no superheroes in capes, flying in to the rescue at last minute; there are no overwhelming CGI graphics snatching the audience's attention (CGI is not bad, but studios are too dependent on it now-a-days), and absent is that ever-irritating plethora of unfunny potty-jokes peddled as contemporary humor. I also find one thing refreshingly absent from this movie is the typical PC drum echoing in my ear. I am so thankful for that. If you get a chance, see this movie. It is a story that is moving and emotional.
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