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Daisy von Scherler Mayer
As the seasons change in a Connecticut town, two men of different age and backgrounds who work together outdoors for the local park system, share thoughts and feelings that gradually deepen into a relationship approaching father and son. Paul is just out of prison for armed robbery, assigned to work with Murph, a middle-aged vet whose grown son Bobby is dying. Paul is trying to control his temper and build a spiritual side based on reading. Murph is a down-to-earth Sancho Panza to Paul's more ethereal ideas. And Murphy seems to need forgiveness for mistakes as a dad. As Murphy's retirement approaches and winter sets in, the men talk and love blossoms. Written by
A 7-Act Naturalistic Play - one Great Off-Beat Film!!
This film is a play. A play made out of 7 Acts. Act 1 has our 2 protagonists, Murph and Paul with the yuppie, played by Campbell Scott. Act 2 with the homeless Fran, played by Ian Hart. Act 3 with the single and lonely(in spite of her puppies) Georgia, played by Peri Gilpin. Act 4 with Bobby, the podgy boy who wants to paint or "play tennis"! Act 5(my favourite), Murph and Paul by themselves, in the park, in Autumn. Act 6 is at Murph's son Bobby's funeral, with Murph's neighbour. Act 7(a) is at the roadside with the suicidal woman and her daughter. Act 7(b) is the summation...the finale, the end of the year and of Paul and Murph's relationship as colleagues, not friends. These 7 Acts are even divided by little interludes of sorts. Accompanied by lilting guitar strains, they show the passing of the seasons and ordinary people of all ages - children running through a maze of hay, a woman hanging wet clothes on a line...seconds encapsulated and bequeathed with a beauty that transcends ordinariness...making them timeless and eternal.
This film sort of expands what Wordsworth called "the still sad music of humanity". Here are 2 ordinary men - Murph and Paul. The former is middle-aged, worried for his son Bobby who's dying, wondering were he, as a father went wrong. Paul has a gnawing feeling that after his brush with the law, he's been given a second chance and it is upon him to stay out of trouble. At the onset they seem as the unlikeliest of people to strike a bond. But, as another viewer over here commented, they both fill a void in each other's life, a void they didn't know existed. The acting of both Ned Beatty and Liev Schrieber is absolutely commendable. Being a basically verbose film, with the kind of naturalism that it has, it really called in for some concentrated performances. Both Beatty and Schrieber are excellent! The only actor I knew at the beginning of this film was Campbell Scott. And even in the 5-10 minutes that he's there on screen, he does complete justice to his character, which in itself is very true-to-life. He's a likeable yuppie who out of all his sincerity believes that if money can make things simpler and spare him the hardwork and the headache, why not use it? He errs in wearing his status too much on his sleeve and in not keeping his word after promising it.
Tom Gilroy deserves great credit for writing such realistic characters and basically having the courage to make a film that has no apparent plot, just wisdom...and a whole load of it at that! The dialogue, the acting, the cinematography...everything is a treat to watch. Hope to find more gems like this one again!
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