Around the Bend

Partially Recommended. This Indie movie about four generations of fathers and sons seeking redemption was pretty good. Good performances by the eldest Grandpappy, Michael Caine, Father Christopher Walken, (yes, he CAN act well as a protagonist), Josh Lucas as a great son, and some little kid as the great grandchild (son of Lucas). It’s a road trip movie where Grandpappy dies, but not before leaving a will that directs all the family members above, one big miserable family, to follow directions on a sort of scavenger hunt around the United States in order to receive the inheritance. He has them doing little rituals and scattering Grandpappy’s ashes at various locations important to him. Of course, it’s really just a ruse to force the alienated Walken and Lucas to try to reconnect before it’s too late. And the ultimate location is the home where Walken hurt his baby son many years before. He is in deep need of forgiveness and that is what this tale is about. Walken finding his redemption in the forgiveness of his son, whom he hurt. Well, on the surface, this is a powerful theme for a movie. But unfortunately, the characters were all so alienated from each other that I could never really enjoy them or like them as people. So I did not care too much for them as I watched their story. This lack of sympathy weakened my appreciation for the story. Interesting quirky characters are not enough. There must be something I like about them or I will not care for them. So the big forgiveness scene was not really all it could be. In fact, it really didn’t happen. The actual act of forgiveness is so underplayed and indirect as to be missed. And the worst part about this redemption was that the son suffered a physical injury all his life from this abuse of his father, BUT HE NEVER KNEW IT. He had been told, since he was a baby, that he fell down the stairs. So, the problem here is that the story starts with Lucas as the main character, but then ends up being Walken’s redemption because Lucas had nothing he had to deal with. How could he? He didn’t know. If he had only known somehow then his character would have a reason for his own angst. That was an unfortunate lack in the character arc of the story. But I did love the symbolic ending where Walken is dying and Lucas, his son, drives him to a rock in New Mexico where Walken had “made love to a woman” in his dark criminal past. It was his personal nostalgia. But when they get there, we discover that it was the place where the son Lucas was conceived, so it was his mother that dad was talking about. A very touching redemptive conclusion, better than the forgiveness scene, that also ends with the father dying of kidney failure before he could make it there. So Lucas and his son go to the location in his stead to continue on the father’s desire, as a powerful symbol of the next generation moving on and overcoming its past. Although I heard this writer/director was a Christian, there was no spiritual side to the story, which was rather disappointing.