(out of 5)
Disturbing, dramatically intense film about a fifteen year-old boy whose entire world leaves him prey to destruction in a very short period of time. After an accident on the Long Island Expressway takes his mother, young Howie Blitzer (Paul Dano) is further upset by his father taking up a sexual affair with a new young woman. Howie spends his days causing mayhem with his best friend (Billy Kay), not knowing that his friend earns money turning tricks on the side of the highway. After a robbery prank gets them in trouble with a pillar of the community (Brian Cox), Dano finds himself beholden to this older gentlemen who turns out to have a sexually prurient interest in young boys. With his shady building contractor father suddenly in trouble with the law, however, it’s scary to discover that Cox’s interest in the boy, both sexual and protective, turns out to be his best chance for survival. Michael Cuesta’s film debut crosses the lines of comfort at many junctures but never taste; the time bomb nature of budding male sexuality is explored while the audience is as implicated in the objectification of these boys as Cox’s character is, but I would not go so far as to call it exploitative. Many viewers will be made uncomfortable with the lack of sensationalism with which paedophilia is portrayed, but what is really being explored here is the uncommon boundary that can be crossed when looking for shelter from a very hostile world. The acting is superb, particularly by a very young, debuting Dano, while Cox does an incredible job of making his character neither sinner nor saint. Even a melodramatic finale, which smacks of moral righteousness, fails to ruin the powerful effect.
Directed by Michael Cuesta
Cinematography by Romeo Tirone
Music by Pierre Foldes
Production Design by Elise Bennett
Costume Design by Danny Glicker