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The Replacement Child (2007)

Not Rated | | Short, Drama | 12 June 2007 (USA)
After spending a year in a juvenile center for beating up his stepfather, Todd Turnbull returns to his backwoods hometown a repentant, deeply religious boy. When he finds his best friend, ... See full summary »



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Credited cast:
Burl Smith
Todd Turnbull
Michael Murphy
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Geraldine Bartlett ...
Mrs. Murphy
Benjamin Chase ...
Choir Boy #2
Jarrett Lerner ...
Choir Boy #1
Carly Nolen ...
Meg Nolen ...
Henry Holman
Jeanette Turnbull
Drew Taylor ...
Mr. Murphy
Joseph Turnbull ...
Mr. Wilcox
Lauren Murphy


After spending a year in a juvenile center for beating up his stepfather, Todd Turnbull returns to his backwoods hometown a repentant, deeply religious boy. When he finds his best friend, Michael, withering away without any medical attention due to the family's spiritual beliefs, Todd must make a choice: let his friend die; or break his oath of non-violence and take matters into his own hands. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Short | Drama


Not Rated

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Release Date:

12 June 2007 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$60,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Featured in The Hour: Episode #7.159 (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

Coming-of-age story which challenges notions of faith and responsibility
10 February 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I attended a screening of "The Replacement Child" at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Written and directed by Justin Lerner, this 25-minute short is a morally complex coming-of-age tale which leaves more questions than it answers, one of my definitions of great film -- and art in general.

Todd Turnbull (Travis Quentin Young) returns home after a stint in juvie for a horrible crime of violence. The fact that he appears sweet and thoughtful right from the opening scene is but the first dichotomy presented by the film. The viewer is challenged from the moment the film begins, literally, and in this manner Lerner's story continues on its compelling journey. Nobody welcomes Todd except his best friend, who lays dying in bed in a home where science and medicine are forbidden in favor of faith and prayer. Todd's feelings towards and obligations to his friend become the central dilemma at the heart of the film. Sacrifice for love is an eternal theme which, in the decision Todd is forced to make, leads to moral questions about life and death, literally.

Soft, natural lighting and incredibly thoughtful composition enhance artistic value. Gospel music, including that of the great Sam Cooke, extends the irony. Lerner's direction, along with Phil Van's camera-work, have created a tension-filled work in a setting of beauty.

Religious themes predominate, with echoes of "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys" in its use of crosses and Christian iconic images in the presence of conflict and violence. Ironically, I had just seen "There Will Be Blood" and couldn't help noticing parallels in reliance on God's love even as internal hatred manifests itself in physical and emotional abuse of others.

Like most shorts, "The Replacement Child" is unlikely to screen outside film festivals but is a fine showcase for an emerging filmmaker. It's a provocative piece which is worth seeking out and will leave you thinking about responsibility, the choices we make, and the question, "am I my brother's keeper?"

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