Take a spin. Big John lets Howie drive his prized car (Cox and Dano).
dir Michael Cuesta
scr Stephen M Ryder, Michael Cuesta, Gerald Cuesta
with Paul Franklin Dano, Brian Cox, Billy Kay, Bruce Altman, James Costa, Tony Michael Donnelly, Walter Masterson, Marcia DeBonis, Adam LeFevre
release US 7.Sep.01; UK 29.Nov.02
01/US 1h34
4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
lanes go east, west and straight to hell This film is bound to generate a lot of controversy for its sympathetic portrayal of a paedophile, but it deserves a look: It's a powerful, moving drama that never manipulates or crosses the line. It's the story of the brainy 15-year-old Howie Blitzer (Dano), whose mother died in a crash on the Long Island Expressway, for which the film is named. He's completely oblivious to the fact that his high-powered dad (Altman) is at the centre of a government investigation. No, Howie is more concerned with adolescent self-discovery, and is skipping school to run around with his new friend Gary (Kay), breaking into houses just for fun. Then he comes into contact with Big John (Cox), a friendly older man--perhaps too friendly--who seems to have an awful lot of teen boys hanging around him. Will John help Howie ... or hurt him?

This tension is what drives the film's later scenes, holding us closely and drawing out powerful themes about trust, helplessness and the need for affection. It's very strong stuff, but handled with astonishing sensitivity and never remotely vulgar or explicit. Howie's struggle is bad enough (and brilliantly played by the young Dano), but the surprise is how strongly we identify also with Big John and his conflicting desires. Cox plays the role dead on--it's a brave performance that never takes the cheap or easy route through a scene and shockingly refuses to vilify the character. It's not a perfect film; Howie's background is a bit too "perfect" in setting him up for the over-dramatic plot. But director-cowriter Cuesta has made one of those rare, unforgettable teen films, saying something important that hasn't been said a million times before. In avoiding typically simplistic moralising, he helps us see things from another perspective ... and really opens our eyes.

See also Rich Cline’s FEATURE ON THIS FILM
strong themes and situations, language cert 18 9.Mar.02 llgff

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
lanes go east, west and straight to hell send your review to Shadows... kelly w, net: "This is one of the best movies! it has everything a good movie needs. Like awsome actors - they all did great, A little emotional, and of course hot dudes! hey does that dude really sleep with his sister?" (1.Apr.06)
© 2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall