After his dad Ryan senior's death in a truck accident, schoolboy Ryan Flynn, a gentle, somewhat nerdy space-fan, becomes a recluse. He shuts up completely after a fall and near-drowning experience while roaming the countryside with his admirably patient, cheerful playmate Rocky Mazzelli. Only Ryan's late granddad finds a magical way to get trough to him and introduce him to a mysterious place, the 'dust factory'. There grandpa and resident teenager Melanie 'Pan' Lewis shows how youngsters prepare for their next life phase. But deciding when they are isn't easy or safe. Written by
When Ryan gets home after falling in the river, his hair is still wet but his clothes are dry. See more »
Did your mother ever tell you about the Fair Footed Flekk?
Once upon a time there were three men who decided to climb the tallest mountain in their country. These fellows knew if they succeeded, they would be showered with wealth and power by the king. They even referred to the mission as a "quest for paradise." Now, the king had a beautiful daughter, and he promised her hand to the bravest of the men. Halfway up the mountain, one of the men turned to the guide and said he couldn't justify ...
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Contrary to popular belief, films do not have to be dumbed-down for children. Much of the pleasure they get comes from puzzling out complex plot developments and recognizing subtle details. And there is actually a small sub-genre of children's films (mostly independents) that challenge young viewers to use their imaginations and film viewing skills.
"The Dust Closet" joins "An Angel for May" and "Restless Spirits" as the best recent examples of this type of film. These films have a hidden depth to their story and storytelling technique that will interest even the most sophisticated viewer-provided that they retain at least some of their childhood capacity for wonder. The weak vote count probably reflects viewers unable or unwilling to deal with a film that requires some mental energy and a few functioning brain cells.
Ryan Flynn (Ryan Kelley) is a teenager who has refused to speak since seeing his father killed at a train crossing. Ryan's father died when Ryan was nine years old, but not before he passed on a passion for astronomy to his son. But now Ryan is having trouble connecting with astronomy, symbolized by his inability to find the man in the moon his father drew for him. Like an impressionist painting, the moonscape becomes meaningless when viewed close up through his new telescope.
Ryan's family takes care of his grandfather (Mueller-Stahl), but Ryan barely knows him because he has had Alzheimer's for a number of years. Ryan hangs out with his best friend Rocky (Michael Angarano), and they communicate fine nonverbally. Rocky does not question Ryan's silence-he just accepts it. Things dramatically change one day when Ryan falls off a bridge and into a lake while roller-blading. When he surfaces Rocky is gone and everything is a little off-kilter. His grandfather is completely recovered and living alone it their house, which was his originally. They have meaningful conversations and his grandfather tries to pass on advice on how to get the most out of life. Ryan meets a pretty girl his own age named Melanie (Hayden Panettiere) who can ice skate on the surface of the lake-even though to Ryan it is summer and the lake is not frozen.
The story is basically told from Ryan's point of view and we learn along with him that this new reality is a place called "The Dust Factory". The film is an allegory (the expression by symbolic means of generalizations about human existence) about the process of living; much like "Groundhog Day". The idea is that most of us just go through the motions of living (each day is just a repeat of the day before). The themes are basically the same, the importance of having the courage to live life to the fullest and to get the most out of each day.
"Groundhog Day" illustrated this by having one day keep repeating itself for the main character . "The Dust Factory" does it by creating a symbolic place between life and death. This place is populated by all those in a coma state, their bodies are alive but their conscious mind is no longer functioning. These people are allegorical and meant to symbolize those who are not living a full life. The circus ring is the point where people finally decide whether to get on with living or to get on with dying (a line borrowed from "Shawshank Redemption").
Either choice is a valid alternative depending mostly on what stage you are at in your life (the grandfather chooses death-the teenagers choose to live for a while longer). The wrong thing is being stuck there in limbo, afraid to risk it in the circus ring. Such people are called dawdlers and symbolize the day-to-day existence of many people. But "The Dust Factory" is also a place where people can pull back and take an objective and distanced look at their lives; seeing things from this perspective allows them to recognize things (like the man in the moon) they were too close to see before (can't see the forest for the trees). Those who come back have no conscious memory of the place (they have been dreaming while in a coma) but subconsciously retain things they have learned; like the Grandfather's advice to not forget that you are on a quest for paradise, and that a fear of dying or hurting keeps you from letting go of security and really living. It takes some work to sort this film out and it probably should be viewed several times because it withholds a lot of its pleasure from the first viewing. The cast does a first-rate job. Panettiere is unexpectedly effective. In her prior film work, her extreme self-assurance overwhelms the character she is playing and works against her performances. Here she plays someone who uses a cocky attitude to hide her fear and insecurity. This multi- dimensionality connects with viewers who then relate to the protectiveness Ryan develops toward Melanie.
The movie goes out on a painfully sappy duet "Someone Like You," performed by Panettiere and Kelley (she can sing-he cannot). My advice would be to hit the off button very early in the closing credits.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
9 of 14 people found this review helpful.
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