Sensitive, somewhat effeminate farm-boy Duncan Mudge can barely cope with grim, since Ma's death even gloomier father Edgar's manly expectations, and seeks comfort in petting a chicken he ... See full summary »
Sensitive, somewhat effeminate farm-boy Duncan Mudge can barely cope with grim, since Ma's death even gloomier father Edgar's manly expectations, and seeks comfort in petting a chicken he associates with his late Ma. Macho mate Perry Foley, who has it physically even harder on his dad's farm, usually comforts Duncan and defends his 'wimpiness' to their cocky ruffian mates Travis, Scotty and Brent. But although clearly attracted to gentle gentile Ducan himself, the socially unacceptable suggestion of 'sissy' homosexuality makes Perry over-react and turn on his friend. Written by
Michael Burke developed the screenplay for the film at a Sundance Labs in 2000. Burke says of inspiration for the film: "Growing up in rural Vermont, I wanted to tell a story about a kid too sensitive for the harsh environment in which he was raised." See more »
A Quietly Brilliant Little Film About Coping and Other Atrocities of Living
Michael Burke both wrote and directed this first class, finely wrought exploration of coming of age in the emotional battlefield of rural bigotry. Rarely has so much been said so successfully with so little dialogue. Burke is clearly a gifted filmmaker about whom we should be hearing much! The film opens with what appears to be an idyllic country road over which a person on an old bicycle is delivering eggs. As the credits are ending we see the person on the bicycle walk up a steep incline then fall to the ground. As the actual film opens we discover that this person was the mother of Duncan (Emile Hirsch in a career making performance), a fourteen year old young lad who is left mourning with his distant father Edgar (Richard Jenkins). Unable to wholly cope with the loss of his mother, Duncan holds closely to her remnants - a chicken as a pet who his mother taught him could be calmed by putting the chicken's head in Duncan's mouth, an old fake fur coat he wears to bed, and some kitchen skills he learned at her side. Edgar is resentful that Duncan isn't more helpful on their small farm and is shaken by observing Duncan's means of mourning his mother.
Duncan is a loner, hungry for relating, and encounters neighboring Perry (Tom Guiry, in another gripping performance), a seemingly macho kid who apparently is beaten (if not more) by his low-class father. The two bond, slowly, out of mutual needs. Perry defends Duncan's ridiculing by the local rowdy kids and even encourages Duncan to join the drinking bouts with the group. Yet Duncan remains an outsider, longing to be included, and when certain events occur with Perry (Perry urges Duncan to put on his mother's wedding dress in the secrecy of the barn and then progresses to having Duncan perform sexual acts with him, declaring all the while that he, Perry, is not gay...) only to have the incident be partially discovered by Duncan's father. At odds with what to do with his strange acting son, Edgar forces Duncan to work at meaningless jobs on the farm, help with the haying, and makes Duncan observe the burning of the mother's clothes and belongings.
Duncan seeks Perry's consolation after the above events and despite Perry's homophobic comments, Duncan manages to gain the kiss from Perry that he so desires as a resurrection of affection desperately missing in his life. Perry is further abused by his own father and participates to a degree in an incident of harassment by the local rowdies of Duncan and his pet chicken. It is the method in which this final confrontation ends that speaks so strongly about Duncan's needs and Perry's buried feelings. After the confrontation Duncan rides his bicycle home to where his father finally perceives the agony chewing Duncan's soul and the movie ends in one of the most life affirming moments ever captured on film.
The photography is magnificent, the musical score is spare and enhancing, and the acting on the part of every member of this well directed cast is superb. This is a film that deserves wide audience exposure, and especially for those young people who are struggling with their sexuality in the ugly isolation surrounding the lives of the main characters of this excellent film. Grady Harp, March 05
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