What really struck me about this film is its honest approach. By that, I mean it doesn't follow the commercial formula as dictated by some executive producer in Hollywood. You can sense it immediately with its rawness & natural pacing.
Sure enough, in the interview on the DVD, director/writer/producer John Werner mentions that the whole film was basically the personal project of himself and a handful of colleagues who decided to put together this film on their own rather than wait for a big studio's backing. This means if you're a fan of indie films you'll really like this. If on the other hand you prefer more polished productions, you may not like it so much.
It's hard not to compare this to the award-winning film "Shine" which was released just a year or two earlier. Plot & themes are similar: a mentally handicapped musical prodigy struggles to perfect his art despite the tyrannical horsewhipping from an overzealous parent. However "Rudy Blue" focuses not on the musician but on his older brother. Here the story focuses on the secondary character in the drama: the man who is shouldering the burden of the dysfunctional family. This lends itself to a great core theme of guilt and the handicaps (physical, mental and emotional) inflicted by a traumatic event. Another big difference between this film and Shine is that Shine was what I would consider a polished, big-budget studio film, and while I really enjoyed Shine, I think its grand presentation undermined the raw human appeal which we feel more powerfully in "Rudy Blue".
My one real criticism is the ending (don't worry, I won't ruin anything) which is the only area where the filmmakers possibly bowed to commercial pressure. The original ending, presented on the DVD extras, was changed when test audiences did not respond favourably. The new ending works, but I can't help but wonder if the original ending would've been more appropriate. If you see this movie, be sure to check both endings as they completely change the tone of the story. In either case, it's a very satisfying film which I look forward to seeing again.
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