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Worth the wait.
Cooper7517 March 2004
Leo is a film made up of two story strands, one detailing the experiences of a newly released prisoner and another tells the tragic tale of a bored 50's housewife whose life takes a downward spiral. Gradually, these two story strands weave together in a predictable fashion, but the film loses none of it's power despite this rather obvious 'twist'.

Leo had been sitting on the shelf for a couple of years untill it's recent release in the U.K. and in my opinion it's difficult to see why. From the stunning cinematography employed, to the universally excellent performances, it's a small winner all round. Obviously not a commercial film but so much rubbish is dumped into cinemas nowadays there is a lot of room for films like this.

As stated above, the film has two plotlines running together. The way in which the director takes us to one, and then the other is done cleverly and in no way detracts from the flow of the picture. The cinematography is a times breathtaking. In the scene in which the character of Steven is released from prison, the barbed wire fences behind him look almost beautiful in the sunlight's reflection. Combined with quick edits of his character running against a clear blue sky, the sequence is quite exhilirating.

The performances in Leo also deserve praise. Joseph Fiennes as Steven is excellent, watch out for the scene in which he confronts Dennis Hoppers character in the back room of a diner.

Elisabeth Shue is as good as in Leaving Las Vegas, if not better. Her descent into alcoholism from straight laced housewife is acted perfectly, her reaction to some devastating news delivered by two policemen is heartbreakingly delivered.

Even if the final revelation is painfully predictable, (though there is a quite unexpected plot point revealed late on) and some of the supporting characters are drawn in very broad strokes, Leo ultimately delivers. It's well directed, well acted, looks gorgeous and is quietly moving in it's own way. And you'll still be thinking about it as you walk away from the theater.

How many films can you say that about these days?
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Ambition Should Be Encouraged Not Scorned
Jennel225 June 2004
I agree with the reviewer who wrote that "Leo" is vulnerable to charges of being pretentious. It also dips into melodrama in a couple scenes involving Dennis Hopper's stock villain, and some of the other characters needed to be fleshed out more. However, I would much rather see a first time director tackle a project with the complexity and ambition of "Leo" than to have them make yet another pseudo wry, post modern, Tarantino imitation, or, worse, a boring, routine slasher film. Therefore, I applaud Mehdi Norowzian for his effort, even if his reach may currently exceed his grasp. I will look forward to seeing future efforts from a director who obviously has talent. BTW, I think one of the "external reviews" makes an issue of Norowzian's background in commercial work. I don't understand the negative view of this. Many talented filmmakers got their start directing commercials or music videos. Robert Altman made industrial films before his first, undistinguished feature, which starred future "Billy Jack," Tom McLoughlin. A person has to learn their craft somewhere. There are only so many Orson Welles types who spring forth a genius in their first effort.
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Elizabeth Shue Was Outstanding
whpratt121 May 2007
This film held my interest from beginning to the very end with Joseph Fiennes, (Stephen) leaving a prison after serving a sentence of murdering a man and has been given a job at a dinner with some very strange people running the establishment. Dennis Hopper,(Horace) plays the role of a very dirty filthy old man who abuses a young waitress in sexual ways to degrade her. There are two central characters who appear in this film which has flashbacks with Elizabeth Shue, (Mary Bloom) who is a very attractive young woman who is married to a professor and lives in a very comfortable home and has a young girl. Mary Bloom is told that her husband is having an affair and Mary reacts by making love to a man who is painting her home and from this point in the film everything begins to turn into many different kinds of mysterious events. Great acting by the entire cast and especially the performance of Elizabeth Shue. Enjoy
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Don't believe the negative comment!
RitchCS27 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
First of all you must be an adult who likes serious drama to watch this film, otherwise, negative comments don't qualify. For a first time director to helm a cast of extremely talented actors, he's created a drama just short of a masterpiece. Joseph Fiennes is one of the most underrated actors working today. His mastery of the American southern dialect is superb. Elizabeth Shue, who is constantly overlooked when juicy female roles are doles out, once again delivers a remarkable performance as does Deb Unger in a lesser and difficult role. Sam Shepard and Dennis Hopper are up to par as usual. This talented cast worked for scale and for the sheer love of the project and it shows. For a low-budget independent film, the DP went to great lengths to set up unusual photography and is better than most 'A' pictures. The flashbacks and present day stories are combined so well and naturally, it's easy for anyone to follow the engrossing plot of a kid, born out of wedlock, the night his mother's husband and daughter were killed in an auto accident. Shue, the mother, blames Leo, (Fiennes) the rest of his life which leads him to murder and prison while trying to save his mother's life. But even then, she won't come to his defense. It's a cold picture of child abuse and neglect of a smart intelligent kid longing to be loved while always trying to do the right thing, no matter the consequence. The movie is heavy drama and if you expect less, you'll be disappointed.
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rent this. now.
socalledlife25 February 2005
Why had I never heard of this movie until I saw it sitting on the video store shelf? I hadn't seen Elisabeth Shue in anything really good lately, and I hadn't seen Joseph Fiennes in anything since Shakespeare In Love, so I didn't have high hopes for this movie. But I'd have to say it's one of the best I've seen in a long time.

This is one of those movies in which different story lines converge into one towards the end of the film. Fiennes is a recently released convict, having served 15 years for murder. Shue portrays a lonely wife and, later, a seemingly heartless mother. While both actors are great in this movie, Shue in particular is shocking (in a good way). Shue is unfailingly likable, whether playing a babysitter or a hooker, so seeing her as Mommy Dearest is both unsettling and refreshing. Having been in the industry for nearly 2 decades when this movie was released, it's exciting to see the (still gorgeous) actress making yet another Leaving Las Vegas-style breakthrough.

I don't want to give away any important plot points, so suffice it to say that this movie left me with the same disturbed, depressed, yet greatly moved feeling that I get from movies like American Beauty. Don't let the fact that most people have never heard of it keep you from picking it up during your next trip to the video store.
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A fantastic performance that time forgot
crosma15 March 2004
Writing gives you the ability to create worlds and examine your own life more effectively. Could writing be the perfect ticket to self-understanding? That may sound contrived, but it may just not be.

Leopold Bloom is a young gifted writer, but his mother believes he is the product of an affair. For this she resents him. Stephen on the other hand, is an ex-convict. He's quiet and controlled, as is Leopold. In a class, Leopold is asked to write a letter for an exercise. He writes this letter to a convict, where it is received by Stephen. They exchange letters, and become each others only friends.

The ending is cliched, but with the rest of this highly original behind it, there was no other way.

You'll be surprised by how moving this becomes towards the end after remaining quite sterile for most of its runtime.
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A tense Southern gothic type of film well worth seeing.
gmalav5877-219 March 2004
Actually, I likened Leo to the Mickey Rourke film Angleheart as both films turned out to be a search for self.

In Leo you have a young, troubled boy named Leo who as part of a school assignment begins writing to Joseph Fiennes, who plays a convicted felon in prison.

When released from prison, Fiennes character sets out to meet the boy, Leo,and help both himself and Leo in the process.

Outstanding performances by Elisabeth Shue, who reprises her role as an alcholic from Leaving Las Vegas and Dennis Hopper who rules the small town's diner as Capt. Bligh ruled the HMS Bounty only with a lot more violence and sexual tension thrown in.

Sam Shepard's role serves as the Greek chorus and keeps the viewer aware of the progress of the other characters.

All in all a very good film that will captivate and entertain.
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Enjoyed it
notantisocial5 July 2004
I try not to have great hopes for movies, however I was pleasantly surprised.

I was afraid that it was going to dark, but instead it offers a very strong main character. Not like a action bondy type, but a rare inquisitive thoughtful man. There are some dark elements to it where people are just cruel.

The story time line is not linear, and I was impressed at how well the whole thing ended. Its not really a feel- good type, definitely was a cure for the common movie. While not being perfect, I really enjoyed it.
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Predictable, but in a good way
hylinski12 May 2010
Joseph Fiennes is a fine actor, and the consistency of his performance is very much the centrepiece of this movie. There are elements of the script which don't seem as coherent, but I could gloss over these because of his consistency.

I like the look of the movie, and the direction costumes and sets complemented each other well, and this was maintained in recounting present day and 'flashback' experiences.

There are comparisons to other films which could be made, especially to Blue Velvet. Indeed Dennis Hopper could have made the two films without changing stride. And Fiennes' character is similar to that played by his brother Ralph in Cronenberg's masterpiece Spider, without the same degree of madness.

I picked up fairly early on the way the plot would head, and I was right. The late novelist Kurt Vonnegut used to often tell the reader how the book would end in the first chapters, and yet the books were compelling. I found this equally so.
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Cinema elevated to great art
pnoons0114 February 2007
I bought this movie, Leo, three years ago in the "previously viewed" section of a ubiquitous movie rental company. I'd not heard of the movie until I saw it for sale that day and bought it merely because Joseph Fiennes was on the cover. What a gem I discovered. Not only in the fine cast but also in their performances, the direction and the cinematography. And this was Norowzian's directorial debut - outstanding.

As far as film and television media is concerned I am limited in terms of critical commentary by the fact that I don't watch television (I've never owned a television set) and thus see most movies either on the big screen or on my computer screen. However, this movie so profoundly moved me that I wrote a commentary on a note card and placed it inside the "Leo" DVD box the first time I saw the movie three years ago. I watched this movie again last week (I've watched Leo ten time since I bought it) and still feel strongly that this a great movie that ought to rank as a classic. Following is the commentary I initially wrote about "Leo" three years ago:

"In thirty-five years of watching movies and with an increasingly critical eye, I must rank this movie as one the best movies I have ever seen. To articulate a thought through an image; to express an emotion in a gesture is not just film making, it's poetry. The French Existentialist, Albert Camus said, "Like great works deep feelings mean more than they are capable of saying." This movie is the exact felicity of Camus."
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Complex character portrayal
Andreas_N18 September 2006
The movie itself is a kind of southern Gothic drama with a very distinct cinematographic approach. The storyline is made up of two subtly intertwining narrative layers that make the movie as a whole hard to grasp at the first look, but thoroughly convincing as an independent character study at last. Very complex material in terms of plot and narrative style, very gloomy and depressing in terms of character portrayal and very distinct in terms of pace and cinematography. A convincing and experienced cast round off the movie's basic quality. The complexity and the unusual style might make it hard to digest for the masses, but it is a real gem for people who like to look beyond the surface and dive into the mind of the protagonist.
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Extremely Underrated
docoftheworld23 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Friends of IMDb :

i've just finished watching this movie , and i am telling you its one of the best movies i have ever seen ...

i've noticed that there's only 197 votes till now ... is that possible ? the dialogue is amazing , the acting is heart devastating , and the cinematography is perfect ,not to mention the lovely acoustic guitar background during the movie ...

i don't know if it would make any sense to you guys , but for me this movie is a combination of Taxi driver and forest gump ( if the latter was as intellectual as leo here )

i believe that Fiennes tackled a tough and complex character here ... he really did a great job !

A must see
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Lots of ambition, little back-up talent
talltale-125 May 2004
LEO is the kind of film few people will have heard of--and that your local video store dealer will try to get you to rent because he knows nothing about it, either, and wants you to check it out for him. That's what happened to me, at least. And with a cast this interesting, why not? Let me tell you why not. This is a very ambitious attempt to deal with themes of identity, child abuse, guilt, redemption and acceptance (all wrapped around James Joyce and his Ulysses, for Christ sake!)--with almost none of the requisite writing or directing talent to back up all that ambition. The director appears to have relied upon his good cast, who undoubtedly came aboard due to the ambitious script. But acting talent can only go so far; here, it stops well short of productivity. Elizabeth Shue is particularly wasted--emoting to beat the band in a role that is one-note (well, one-and-one-half) and tiresome. A young actor named Davis Sweatt does wonders with the main character as an adolescent, and Joseph Fiennes is fine, too. Deborah Kara Unger gets abused again (she's got to stop this sort of thing), Dennis Hopper is his usual nut case, and Sam Shepard's laconic and macho. By film's end, almost anything good has fallen away and what is left seems like pure pretension. It's rare to see so much possibility come to so little.
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You need a really, really, really long attention span to enjoy this film
MBunge5 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Watching this movie is like having your car break down on a hundred mile stretch of road smack dab between Dullsville and Boring Town. The first 50 minutes is nothing but drudgerous back story that could have been dispensed with through a handful of well written lines of dialog. The middle 30 minutes is a bunch of mediocre pretension with a twist you'll see coming a mile away. The only way I can describe the final 20some minutes of Leo is that this blah little tale comes to a definite end, but these filmmakers keep on going like someone who's having sex and can't achieve orgasm. It's a lot of uncomfortable pounding away at ground that's already been well pounded.

This movie weaves together two thoroughly tedious yarns about life in Mississippi. In something like the present day, a taciturn man named Stephen (Joseph Fiennes) gets out of prison after serving 18 years on a murder conviction. He gets a job working in a hotel/diner and spends the rest of his time writing in his room and taping the pages up on his wall where they are blown about by an inexplicable breeze. In some nondescript part of the 1970s, an unhappy young woman named Mary Bloom (Elizabeth Shue) is living an unfulfilled life as the wife of college professor Ben Bloom (Jake Weber). After going into a whole bunch of Mary's life that absolutely didn't need to be gone into, Mary gives birth to a son named Leo (Davis Sweatt) while miserably carrying on with Ryan (Justin Chambers), a house painter who inexplicably transforms from sensitive man to trailer trash bastard.

These separate threads come together when Leo grows up to become a pen pal of Stephen. Their relationship is more involved than that, but anyone who watches this movie will figure out what it is long before the film actually reveals the truth, so I don't see any need to get into it myself. Back in the present, Stephen has to protect a designated victim (Deborah Kara Unger) from Horace (Dennis Hopper), the almost comically abusive co-owner of the hotel/diner. Back in the 1970s…well, young actor Davis Sweatt essentially stands around watching Elizabeth Shue give a decent but obvious performance as a mother who hates and resents her son. The story then comes to a reasonable and logical conclusion, yet the movie continues on and on and on until reaching an artsy-fartsy final image that must have meant something to these filmmakers but won't mean anything to anyone else.

Leo would have been a boring experience even if it had had an unexpected and interesting twist to it. That this movie's twist is predictable and stale sent my apathy level rocketing past the Moon and on its way to Mars. In fairness, someone with a stronger constitution might have gotten more out of this film than I did. But after the first 50 minutes of this thing passed and I realized I'd just spent that much time watching exposition and the real plot of Leo was only getting started, I'll admit that I emotionally checked out. As I mentioned before, not a thing in that first hunk of Leo couldn't have been more effectively communicated to the audience through a few lines of dialog and a few moments of behavior on screen. To sit there for that long, only to discover I'd been watching a 50 minute long equivalent of the opening crawl of a Star Wars flick was too much for me to tolerate.

So, take this criticism with a grain of salt. I found viewing Leo to be as much fun as a dental exam and as touching as a traffic ticket. Your mileage may vary.
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Leo Entertains
Desertman841 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Leo is a psychological drama that stars Joseph Fiennes,Elisabeth Shue, Justin Chambers and Sam Shepard.The screenplay was written by Amir Tadjedin and Massy Tadjedin and it was directed by Mehdi Norowzian.

A literary drama offering the parallel tales of two wounded souls, director Norowzian's tale of redemption and the struggle to find one's place in life finds an ex-convict's correspondence with a young boy offering hope for the future despite the fact that the boy has yet to find his own place in the world. Believing that her husband has been unfaithful, Mary Bloom embarks on an affair with a young handyman that results in her pregnancy. Racked with guilt when her husband dies in a car accident shortly thereafter, Mary begins to hate her son, Leo, leaving the youngster hungering for affection. Assigned correspondence with a convict for a class project, the withdrawn Leo begins to form a close bond with Stephen, who increasingly relies on his communication with Leo as a form of cathartic repentance. When Stephen is released from jail, he gets a job at a diner where concerned co-workers Vic and Caroline attempt to help him establish himself on the outside. Simultaneously brutalized by local drunk Horace, Stephen decides to leave the diner and search for the boy whose letters carried him through his darkest days.

Leo is a well-written drama of psychological depth.The plot simmers along nicely, dipping and weaving between the two story lines flawlessly. But it wasn't enough to be more than just an entertaining movie and nothing more.
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