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A fifth grader goes on a search for God after his grandfather dies. Along the way he gets into tons of trouble at Waldron Academy an all boys school. Also he is aided on his search by a sports loving nun. Written by
What I initially thought of as a kiddie flick, I was pleasantly surprised to find 'Wide Awake' so much more (though I should have known better since it was written by the wonderful M. Night 'Sixth Sense' Shymalan).
The story of the film revolves around a little boy named Joshua who seeks to find God in order to ensure his dead grandfather is safe. Ten-year-old Josh is Catholic and an unflinching believer in his faith until the death of his beloved grandfather. Suddenly all Josh has been raised to believe in is thrown into turmoil as he finds his faith seriously called into question. He begins to wonder why God allows so much bad to exist in the world and, more importantly, what happened to his grandfather following his death.
The film is not just a story of faith but also of growing up and realising the world is not a simple place with absolutes, rather things may not always be what they seem. The ending, like 'Sixth Sense' does have a great twist that works so well and will leave even the hard-hearted feeling warm. Joseph Cross, as Josh, and Timothy Reifsnyder, as his best friend Dave, were able to carry the film at a first-rate level despite being so young. Cross portrayed Josh's innocence, his disenchantment with God, his love for his friends and family and the joy at his end revelation with the proficiency of a professional triple his age. His touching performances brought heart to the story. The adult actors in supporting roles, with Dana Delany and Denis Leary as Josh's parents and Rosie O'Donnell as the nun teacher, were decent yet understated as they, quite rightly, let the child actors shine.
One of the best things of this film is that although much of the cast are children, they aren't the typical annoying brats you see tend to encounter in Hollywood films. The storyline isn't sugary either. The interaction of Josh with his friends and adults around him were handled poignancy, especially the flashback scenes with his grandfather that portrayed their strong bond perfectly.
'Wide Awake' does make you wonder if ten-year-olds' can have deeper thoughts and views than adults give them credit for and I think many of us can empathise with how childlike wonder slowly gives way to adult insights as we grow up and leave childhood behind. This isn't a film just for the religious but those who are interested in a realistic depiction of a child's coming-of-age.
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