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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Visually rich and atmospheric telling of a solid coming of age story

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
22 February 2014

The plot here sees a boy returning from juvenile detention where he has spent some time for beating up his step-father. His return to normal life sees him try to return to his old job and old life even as the past of what he has done stays with him. Meanwhile a very friend sick continues to only get worse as his religious family sit around him, praying to Jesus for help while ignoring Todd's assertions that probably the better approach would be to mix faith with a doctor.

The story here is pretty good but I must say that without the delivery it would not stand up as much. The theme of "religious idiots" is not an uncommon one in short films, perhaps because the community of creative types that tends to be involve would also tend not to be those clinging to their bibles and their guns in smaller towns. That said, here it is not forced down the throat so much as used as a story of a boy growing up, trying to shake off his past but also knowing what is the right thing to do. It doesn't totally satisfy as a narrative in terms of start/middle/end but I did care and was interested in the character, which I guess is all that matters at the end of it.

The delivery is impressively professional though. The colors in the film are richly brown and warm, you can feel the heat of the place and this compliments the tension of the community. I would have like fewer close- ups and tight shots and maybe given more room to a sequence rather than mostly edits, but it still has a rich feel to it that I liked. The performances are mixed but the key one works from Young, he is convincing and manages to be difficult but not so difficult that he loses the viewer; it is odd to see that his career on film so far is partly in short film but mostly as ADR voice work for major films.

The Replacement Child is solid but not a perfect film as I would have liked a bit more freedom and a bit more delivery but it is well delivered with rich atmosphere a good look and a good central performance.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful Film

10/10
Author: Muhammad Ali Hasan from United States
28 December 2008

This is really a beautiful film! The theme of overlooking one's faults, and still doing what's right, is beautifully played out - Justin Lerner puts us inside the head of an unsympathetic character, who we deeply grow attached to, mainly because of his compassion and ability to keep his cool, despite unfair situations --- it touches that nerve, deep down inside all of us, that believes in compassion, but still wants show an external toughness --- Overall, the film is an awesomely woven story of an anti-hero coming back home and having to face too many surprises -- The cinematography, sound design, production design, etc, are all superb - this is definitely a film made with Hollywood quality, not student --- I encourage all to check it out --- It's also of persona note that the director, Justin Lerner, is extremely down to earth and always looking to help other filmmakers - God Bless him --- his success and talent are due to good karma, in my opinion

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Coming-of-age story which challenges notions of faith and responsibility

9/10
Author: larry-411 from United States
10 February 2008

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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One or two okay moments, the rest isn't good

4/10
Author: Thomas (filmreviews@web.de) from Berlin, Germany
8 September 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Replacement Child" is a short film from almost 10 years ago written and directed by Juston Lerner in his 20s. And he sure was still learning here. This movie tries to be dramatic, emotionally relevant, tragic somewhat and still a great character study. it has solid moments, but as a whole it is simply not enough and not a very convincing or interesting 25 minutes. Some awards bodies went for the obvious bait and I can see why. The title is already really cringeworthy and I guess some people really saw something in here. I sure didn't. The acting wasn't very good either. I hope Lerner stepped up his game since he made this one here. It's not an entirely bad film, but it's all very generic, also the inclusion of Down Syndrome people, which is not the only time that Lerner included these. All in all, not recommended.

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Interesting Tale That's A Little Bit Forced

7/10
Author: Theo Robertson from Isle Of Bute, Scotland
2 March 2014

With a host of Biblical films about to flood our cinema screens this year and which will achieve absolutely nothing except to drown the careers of such luminaries as Darren Aronofsky and Ridley Scott I've been viewing a few Christian films recently . All of them are exceptionally dreadful and nothing more than propaganda pieces , some of which aren't a million miles away from the tone and agenda of THE ETERNAL JEW so it's nice to see an intelligent film especially an American one criticising religion and its hardcore followers . THE REPLACEMENT CHILD is one such film

Some people , especially in Europe might be taken aback that in America people might rely on the power of prayer to combat illness , but the story is obviously taking place in the heartland of the Bible belt . I've never visited America or its notorious Bible belt but my parents have as have many people I know and their abiding memory is of the rigid blatant ecclesiastical dronings of the inhabitants there whose religious conviction is only matched by their ignorance of both science and what is happening in the rest of the world . Perhaps even more scary is that these Bible thumpers have got both the vote and easy access to guns . Be afraid but be proud of the secular nature of Europe . I'm starting to sound like a party political broadcast for The Richard Dawkins Party but you can easily believe scenario put forward because it could easily be based on truth so it's certainly not as far fetched as it might first seem

What is interesting is that the story's hero Todd Turnball is open to interpretation . There's two ways of looking on him . One is that he possesses true Christian spirit and dogma doesn't overwhelm his humanist compassion in always doing the right thing . The other view . which is mine , is that he's simply an agnostic but isn't allowed to state this due to the unbending religious environment of his peers . who hate him to begin with because he's been in jail . So much for Christian forgiveness but one wonders is this might not be to get the audience on Todd's side . As it stands this aspect is perhaps a little over done . It's not like he had a guest role in TO CATCH A PREDATOR or something similar . THE REPLACEMENT CHILD might be a little bit forced but is a very involving thought provoking drama

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Awesome

10/10
Author: jeffharms2000 from United States
29 January 2008

Extremely taut and effective storytelling. Beautifully shot. I feel like I have been in a very full world for the last 20 minutes. This is one of the best depictions of dealing with violence or dealing with being violent I have seen. Far from being a morality tale, I found this to be a study in what it is to be violent and human, and therefore far more interesting.

great sound design. Its the sound that actually made me go searching on the internet. Often the sound carries the narrative in the film and I was looking for a further explanation of the ending... I will check back and see if anyone replies.

Really effective. This does more than most films do in 2 hours.

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