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The Caveman's Valentine (2001)

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A cave-dwelling man sets out to track down the killer of a homeless boy, and bring him to justice.


Kasi Lemmons


George Dawes Green (novel), George Dawes Green (screenplay)
4 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Samuel L. Jackson ... Romulus
Colm Feore ... Leppenraub
Ann Magnuson ... Moira
Damir Andrei Damir Andrei ... Arnold
Aunjanue Ellis ... Lulu
Tamara Tunie ... Sheila
Peter MacNeill ... Cork
Jay Rodan ... Joey / No Face
Rodney Eastman ... Matthew
Anthony Michael Hall ... Bob
Kate McNeil ... Betty
Leonard L. Thomas ... Shaker / Greater No Face (as Leonard Thomas)
Joris Jarsky ... Boy Toy / Andy (as Joris Jorsky)
Pierre Alcide Pierre Alcide ... Toupee
Richard Fitzpatrick Richard Fitzpatrick ... Walter


Romulus is mentally ill, a troglodyte in a New York City park. He's also a gifted composer and the father of a city cop. On Valentine's Day, a young man freezes in a tree near his cave. The police determine it's the accidental death of someone behaving bizarrely, but Romulus believes a friend of the dead youth who says that noted avant-garde photographer, David Leppenraub, murdered him. Romulus, urged on by hallucinations of his wife as a young woman, resolves to catch the killer and manages to be invited to Leppenraub's farm to play a new composition. Can Romulus hold it together long enough to get to the bottom of the death and also to make a breakthrough with his daughter? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Inside a tortured mind... The clues that lead to a killer. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, some violence and sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »



USA | Canada



Release Date:

20 September 2001 (Malaysia) See more »

Also Known As:

Az ösztönember See more »


Box Office


$13,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$112,041, 4 March 2001, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Throughout the film, Romulus raves at, and about, a fictional man named Stuyvesant. In Samuel L. Jackson's earlier film One Eight Seven (1997), his character works at a school in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. See more »


When Sheila wakes Romulus to tell him he's being misled, Moira turns and pulls the bedclothes up enough to show that she's wearing blue-checkered shorts. A short while later, when Romulus is getting out of bed, Moira is obviously naked. See more »


[first lines]
Romulus Ledbetter: Don't you watch me! You think you're gonna crawl into my brain and see a show? That what I am? Is that what you think?
Social Worker: What I think, Mr. Ledbetter, is that the temperature is dropping.
Romulus Ledbetter: I got freezing temperatures all over my brain. And I got legends of angels up there! Like little moths, and they'll beat the hell out of you with their wings!
See more »

Crazy Credits

For "Billie" 1955-1999 - "love you baby. always have. always will." See more »


Referenced in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #2.21 (2011) See more »


Regnava nel Silenzio from Lucia di Lammermoor
By Gaetano Donizetti
Performed by Ying Wong and London Symphony Orchestra (as The London Symphony)
Conducted by James Conlon
Courtesy of Sony Classical
By Arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
See more »

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User Reviews

Kasi Lemmons Delivers
31 July 2001 | by jhcluesSee all my reviews

The thin line between genius and insanity is examined in this story of a gifted man estranged from his family and separated from his vocation by his seemingly unfounded paranoia. `The Caveman's Valentine,' directed by Kasi Lemmons, stars Samuel L. Jackson as Romulus Ledbetter, a former Julliard student, talented composer and pianist who now lives in a cave near a park in New York City. Romulus treads that delicate line between reality and fantasy, his thought process interrupted by the `moth seraphs' that live within his head, but even during his most rational periods the demons of his delusions plague him incessantly. He alternately recoils from and stands boldly upright against the presence of the towering skyscraper (the Chrysler Building) wherein resides the `Big Brother' of his imagination, the man responsible for his present state of being, a man named `Stiverson.' But then again, is it really only in his imagination?

In his cave, Romulus has an unconnected television set he watches, which keeps him abreast of the latest `lies' concocted by those in power and foisted on an unsuspecting public. He lives alone, but is well known on the streets for his vociferous ranting and railings against Stiverson and those who seek to subjugate those like himself, those who haven't the strength or the power to stand up to them. Then one day, in the dead of winter, Romulus emerges one morning from his cave and finds something in a tree just outside. And what he finds sets him upon a quest that will prove to everyone once and for all that he is not crazy, that Stiverson and the others exist and are what he says they are, and if he is successful, he will finally have the proof. Now if he can but stave off his demons and maintain lucidity long enough to do what he must do; he is adamant, but just as he is beginning, `they' introduce their newest weapon which they wield in a soft, green light, the `Z-Rays.' Romulus, however, is frightened but not deterred, and more determined than ever to expose Stiverson for what he is.

Kasi Lemmons, who made an auspicious directorial debut in 1997 with `Eve's Bayou,' presents this complex story with a stylistic and artistic touch that at times evokes the spirit of Fellini (as with the `moth seraphs' sequences which she uses to great effect). She quickly establishes the character of Romulus and sets a pace that allows the mystery to escalate as the story unfolds. Her approach succinctly captures the paranoid world inhabited by Romulus in his own mind, and she plays on his sudden erratic behavior and the unexpected turn in the middle of a scene to build an underlying tension that makes the drama all the more riveting. Most importantly, she manages to go beyond what is happening in the film to convey the true essence of what this story is all about, with insight and an obvious and incisive grasp of human nature.

Samuel L. Jackson gives a dynamic performance as Romulus, who has a tendency to lapse into quiet moments, but guards against them as if they were a threat to his safety. Afraid to let his guard down, he fights his fears with anger and bravura, but clearly that's not who this man really is, which Jackson communicates quite effectively. There's nothing feigned or pretentious about this character, and Jackson takes him from a rational moment into madness seamlessly, which adds to the credibility of not only Romulus, but the entire film. This is not a man to whom you will be able to relate directly, but there are certainly elements of his situation to which you will readily be able to sympathize. Romulus is a thoroughly complex character, and Jackson realizes those complexities with insight and realism.

Also outstanding in one of the smaller, but pivotal supporting roles in Anthony Michael Hall as Bob, the bankruptcy lawyer who encounters Romulus and somewhat indirectly facilitates his mission. Hall has matured as an actor, and this is probably one of the best roles he's had since his youthful efforts in such films as `National Lampoon's Vacation,' and `The Breakfast Club.' Ann Magnuson also gives a noteworthy performance as Moria Leppenraub, the sister of artist David Leppenraub (Colm Feore), who is something of a free spirit and becomes involved with Romulus when certain circumstances lead him to David. Magnuson has a certain charismatic, Shirley MacLaine-like quality about her that makes her accessible and easy to watch, and she is very believable here as Moria.

Rounding out the supporting cast are Tamara Tunie (Shelia), Damir Andrei (Arnold), Aunjanue Ellis (Lulu), Peter MacNeill (Cork), Jay Rodan (Joey), Rodney Eastman (Matthew) and Kate McNeil (Betty). A thought provoking, emotionally involving film that is exceptionally well presented and acted, `The Caveman's Valentine' has something to say about the diversity of a society in which everyone has a place, no matter what they may appear to be, and the fact that absolutely no one should ever be dismissed out-of-hand. It says that there are no `throw-away' people; that the value of an individual often cannot be measured until confronted with extraordinary circumstances, for it is that which brings out the best and drives someone like Romulus to exercise the latent capacity which lies within. One of life's lessons, told here with a profound clarity by Lemmons, through a medium that is the magic of the movies. I rate this one 9/10.

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