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THE FATHER AND THE BEAR

Written and Directed by: John Putch

Starring Wil Love, David DeLuise, and Dendrie Taylor

 

 

Imagine that thscreenshot2015-08-28at11-29-13pme one thing you are passionate about in life is taken away from you because you’re aging and seeing the beginnings of dementia.  It’s one of the possible curses associated with aging and Byron Temple (Wil Love), local acting legend, is in the midst of this situation in John Putch’s heartfelt film “The Father and the Bear.”  Byron longs to be on stage once again.  His last performance a couple years before was a disaster because of dementia and he hasn’t returned since.  Now,  a new theater manager, Bill (David DeLuise) comes to town with his energetic daughter, Lefty (Charity Farrell) and the two find a way to help one another accomplish their goals.  It’s a  beautiful and emotional journey of love, acceptance, and most importantly, community.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

John Putch, prolific television actor and director, takes us back to his hometown roots in Chambersburg, PA to tell this very personal tale.  Putch states that his “…mother (Jean Stapleton) passed with dementia and the film takes place in my childhood home, where my father operated his beloved summer theater the Totem Pole Playhouse.”  Putch uses the actors from the town to bring this story to life, challenging the viewer to understand the emotional impact that aging and dementia has on everyone.  In fact, Putch uses “archival footage…from the  hundreds of shows that they performed in under the direction of [his] father Bill Putch” to stitch together a seamlessly beautiful story.

The opening scene in this film packs a powerful punch as Byron’s daughter, Diane (Dendrie Taylor) drives him to a doctor’s appointment for an evaluation.

fatherdaughterByron’s reaction to the situation is uncannily real, having gone through this myself just a few years ago.  That’s what makes this film different…it strikes a personal chord, not just with me, but with the millions of people who deal with aging parents and dementia every year.  Byron and his daughter struggle through the process, neither quittheater2e understanding the process and neither wanting to accept it.

Newcomer Bill and his daughter are charged with the summer production at the Totem Pole Playhouse, but their star bails on them, leaving them without the draw they needed to raise the necessary funds for the theater. Bill, unaware of Byron’s condition, asks him to take on this role, but is the pressure too much and can he defy the intermittent symptoms of dementia?  “The Father and the Bear” take us into the lives of all who are involved, giving us a unique perspective about Byron’s life and how it affects so many.

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The story is beautifully written and weaving in real film footage of Love’s performances brings a sense of authenticity and even more heart to this tale.  We are on the edge of our seats, not knowing how the story is going to end.  Putch is also able to bring us inside the mind of Love’s character, giving us insight to his past and his struggle, connecting us even more deeply to him.   Taylor’s performance embodies the heartbreak and love a daughter feels as she watches her father attempt to resist this disease and hold on to the person he is.  DeLuise brings sincerity and love to his role of Bill and Farrell is the life of the room, bringing light and energy to every scene.  It is wil-canLove, however, that is simply stellar as Byron Temple.  He is my father.  He is everyone’s father.  He pulls you into his struggle with such strength and emotion that you cannot resist.  With the captivating and powerful script and amazing performances, we all have a better understanding of this cognitive disease, its effects, and perhaps how we can do better in helping others.

 

“The Father and the Bear” is a beautiful, insightful, and emotionally eloquent film that is inspirational as it reminds us what is important in life. Putch’s personal touches brings us a genuine story not typically seen in Hollywood films today.

For more information about seeing this film in your community go to www.thefatherandthebear.com

“The Father and the Bear” is available on DVD and Blu Ray right now.  And early in 2017, you can see it via on-line platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix.

For more information about dementia, go to The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

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MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Written and Directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Starring Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler, and Michelle Williams

Nothing is simple in this masterful exploration of grief.

Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges star in Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea.” Lonergan creates a realistic story as Lee (Affleck) learns of the death of his brother and is now charged with the responsibility of caring for his nephew, Patrick (Hedges). The story is a beautiful, deep and sometimes harsh look into family obligation, love and guilt.

This extraordinary writer and director masterfully tells the story while creatively using a nonlinear form; Lonergan does this with ease. We know from the beginning that Lee is carrying a heavy emotional load, but what and why remains to be revealed. Initially, we get a glimpse into the drudgery of his life — the routine of being a janitor and inexplicable angry outbursts.

To read the review in its entirety as it was printed in the Friday, December 2nd, 2016 edition of The Daily Journal go here

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

 

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In a small town outside of Mexico City is a place that houses abandoned and/or abused boys called IPODERAC.  This self-sustaining facility, raises goats for milk and in turn creates artisinal cheeses sold to high-end markets and restaurants in Mexico.  IPODERscreen-shot-2016-12-02-at-11-52-01-amAC creates a safe environment to not only learn, but to be productive members of society.   Nicole Opper takes us through the open doors of this remarkable center in her new film “Visitor’s Day.”  With beautiful cinematography and gifted story-telling, we get to know several of these boys and travel along their emotional journey of growth and development.  This film will not only inspire you, it confirms that humanity is not lost—we can help one another.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Juan Carlos, Roberto, Tio Carlos, and Pepe are just a few of the boys we get to know in “Visitor’s Day.”  All of these boys have a different story, but what ties them  together is the pain and suffering of loss, abandonment, and/or abuse.  Many of these boys were living on the street and turned to a life of crime and drug use at an early age.  What makes “Visitor’s Day” different is the filmmaking style to communicate what a truly remarkable place IPODERAC is.  We are privy to counseling sessions, tours, psychological evaluations and results, and of course, to the monthly visitor’s day.  We take a seat at the tscreen-shot-2016-12-02-at-11-52-51-amable, we walk along side of these children, and we feel our heart break as we hear these boys talk about their past.  The extraordinary efforts of the skilled professionals at IPODERAC that help these boys create the tools to be resilient in order to confront their past and “appreciate sadness,”  is simply astonishing.

 

Juan Carlos is one of the boys whose story is quite shocking.  He explains what happened in his home, being tied to a chair, beaten, yet still longing for the love and approval of his father who he hasn’t seen in 6 years.  We are a part of his therapy sessions and his conversations with the other boys and staff.  We sit on the edge of our seats, awaiting the arrival of his father, feeling the dread of disappointment, but not totally losing hope:  we are right there with Juan Carlos.   The intervention he receives allows us to see that no one is truly lost.

The film also captures the fact that ll of the boys in the film work together as a community to support one another and find the right path to follow.  The compassion among the boys and the staff is quite unusual and perhaps could be a model facility for other cities and countries.

“Visitor’s Day” is a unique and in-depth look inside the doors of a remarkable place of healing, growth, and development.  IPODERAC is the prototype for intervention and with Opper’s style of filmmaking, we are a part of this extraordinary world.  “Visitor’s Day” is a film of love, hope, and our future.

FOR MORE INFORMATION GO TO www.visitorsdaythefilm.com

 

 

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Check out the review of ALLIED as it appeared in the Friday, November 25th edition of The Daily Journal:

Accomplished writer Steven Knight (“Locke” and “Pawn Sacrifice”) brings to the table his signature skills in tension and emotional depth with his newest film, “Allied,” starring Brad Pitt (Max Vatan) and Marion Cotillard (Marianne Beausejour).

During World War II in 1942 Morocco, a set of spies pose as husband and wife on a covert mission to upend a faction of Nazi Germany. Their pretense of love becomes real, and the two create a life together. But, when a question of treason comes into play, so comes the question of true love.

To read the full review go to www.daily-journal.com

 

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MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Written and Directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, and Lucas Hedges

Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Lucas Hedges star in the new Kenneth Lonergan masterpiece, “Manchester by the Sea.”  Lonergan creates a realistic story revolving around loss, love, and responsibility as Lee (Affleck) learns of the death of his brother and is now charged with the responsibility of caring for his nephew, Patrick (Hedges).  Nothing is as simple as it appears as Lee has obvious guilt and remorse for an incident that drove him away from his hometown.  The story is a beautiful,deep, and sometimes harsh look into emotions and relationships.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

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Masterfully telling a story while creatively using a non-linear form takes an extraordinary writer and director.  Lonergan does this with ease.  We know from the beginning that Lee is carrying a heavy emotional load, but what and why remains to be revealed.  We get a glimpse into the drudgery of his life—the routine of being a janitor and the lack of any happiness frequently elicits angry outbursts that appear inexplicable, initially.  When Lee gets the phone call that his brother has passed away, his lack of emotion also is puzzling, but we find ourselves back in time when the two brothers and Patrick  have a wonderfully full and ordinary life.  The timeline continues to bounce back and forth, allowing us to get to know Lee and what is inside that baggage he drags with him every day of his life.

 

The relationship between Lee and Patrick is a complex one as Lee finds himself dealing with more than he can handle.  Patrick, a typical teen yet one who is much more insightful and intelligent than you’d expect for his age, manipulates his uncle to add a touch of humor to the story, but he also allows us to see his pain and uncertainty.  His openness with Lee creates such raw feelings that our heart breaks.  And Lee’s lack of communication actually balances the two extraordinarily.  Lee may not say as much verbally, but his expressions and body language say it all.  We are committed to these characters, empathizing with them, and understanding each and every decision whether we agree with it or not.

There are  a few separate yet intertwining story lines occurring in “Manchester by the Sea.” A pivotal relationship is  Lee and Randi’s (Williams) marriage.  At one time, they seemed to have been  happy  with three little ones to fill the house.  It wasn’t a storybook marriage.  It felt real.  And it’s obvious that something horrible happened as the two are now divorced.  Again, flashing back to long segments of memories, these times are captured allowing us to understand why Lee is the way he is.

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This is a complicated story of human emotion and how we grieve and deal with guilt yet still have to forge ahead and  live.  To what extent is the question.  Finding the right cast to bring such core feelings to life is of utmost importance and Lonergan’s choices are stellar.  Affleck’s performance is one of the most subtle and powerful portrayals of such a rich character that you could imagine.  Every movement, gesture, and slight facial expression paints a thousand words.  Never before have I experienced such sympathy and occasionally empathy with a character on the screen.  It’s one of the most skilled and nuanced performances this year.  Williams, although not on screen a significant amount of time, has such as an evocative execution of her very important character.  Her interactions and verbal exchanges pack a powerful punch as we see what she is and has been experiencing.  Hedges rounds out this ensemble cast with an equally skilled performance.  He’s reactive and in tune with not only his surroundings and his role, but also with his cast members.  You may not recognize this young talent, but I guarantee, you will.  Chandler is ever the cornerstone of any film, bringing to the screen a genuine portrayal of a man and father just living his life with all its ups and downs.  This cast, the directing, and the powerful script gives us a sense of reality in lives we truly grow to care about.  At times, it’s gut-wrenching, and at others it’s heartbreaking and even occasionally comical, but it is always so very genuine and real.

 

“Manchester by the Sea” is a masterpiece of art, conveying such depth of character and story as it touches upon our most basic needs, desires, and how we cope.  With complicated characters that typify each of us in some way, this film is a beautiful pallet of human emotion, cutting deep inside our heart and soul.

I fully intend to see a few Oscar nods for this film!  Don’t miss it!

10 REELS out of 10

 

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Sean Bloomfield, filmmaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The holiday season always brings into question and conversation the existence of God.  Filmmaker Sean Bloomfield has traveled to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzogovina several times, but this time, he embarks upon a very different journey with seven unique individuals.  Medjugorje is known to the world for sightings and communication with the Virgin Mary.  In Bloomfield’s film, “Apparition Hill,”  some of the participants  are believers, others want or need a miracle in their lives, and two are athiests—a true cross-section of people.  Bloomfield carefully chose these participants from a pool of hundreds and the conclusions of this adventure surprised even him.  I had the chance to catch up with Bloomfield and Mark Swoboda, one of the atheists, to discuss the film and where it has lead them.

RHR (Reel Honest Reviews):  Why did you choose this topic?

SB (Sean Bloomfield):  It’s one of the biggest mysteries happening right now  in the world… people might write it off as a religious hoax.  Millions of people go there including scientists [and] doctors…and studied it.  There’s really been nobody that’s been able to say it’s a hoax. There’s so many people that go there and experience what I would call a change of heart. But even bigger than that, the peace that people find there, it’s something that almost everybody reports.

We invited people to enter a video contest and say why they would like to go [to Medjugorje] for the first time.  We’d love to get skeptics there and people who don’t believe in it.  And also a diverse cast of people who had never been there to make it as objective as possible.  The film presents their stories and really lets the audience decide for themselves.  We didn’t want to impose anything on the audience.

RHR:  Was it difficult not to voice your views?

SB:  Our biggest concern was making a film that was true to each of the stories.  I believe in what’s happening in Medjugorje, but I would hate to make a film that imposes belief on people.

RHR:  Were you raised in a religious environment?

SB:  I’d been baptized as a baby…but after that I can’t ever remember being in a church.  I wasn’t raised with any raised with any religion or spiritual guidance.

RHR:  When did you first go to Medjugorje?

I had gone  there about 15 years ago when I was 20 years old.  It was really an eye opening experience for me.  I ended up going back a few times before I realized there’s definitely something to this. For me, I didn’t want anything to do with the religious aspect of it.  I remember hearing people praying the rosary and all excited about going to mass.  It seemed  all very strange to me because I wasn’t used to it.  [But] I really just felt something there [and] it kept me going back.  Something powerful is happening there.  It lead me into faith, it lead me to embracing my Catholic roots. Really learning so much more about christianity and Catholicism.  It wiped away all the preconceptions that I had .  I had a lot of bad thoughts about the entire church and everything it represented.  This place lead me to a new outlook on faith.  It changed my life.  I’ve devoted a lot of my career to capturing what I can of this place.  It’s either the biggest hoax of mankind or the biggest miracle since Jesus walked the Earth.  It’s something that big.

RHR:  What do you hope viewers will take away from this?

SB: Live every day like it’s your last because we never really know when it could be.   Whether or not you believe in God, that’s a really good philosophy in life [because] it makes you cherish  these really short moments that we have on this Earth. And it makes you treat others with respect and more dignity.  Really Cherish your loved ones.  If you are a believer, then you believe they’re a gift form God.   That’s easy to take for granted whether you’re a believer or not. The underlying message of Medjugorje,  of faith, and of our film is love, pure and simple.

RHR:  If every film could do that, what a world we would live in!

SB:  If it changes even just one heart, it’s worth all the effort we’ve put into it.

RHR:  Thank you Sean.  Now Mark, given that you’re an atheist, how and why did you apply to go?

MS (Mark Swoboda): I learned about this trip through my wife.  My wife being very, very Catholic.  She has long wnated me to go to Medjugorje.  She actually prayed that I would go during our wedding.  I actually left for the trip on our wedding anniversary 7 years later.  She sees it as a prayer that came true.  She’s always wanted me to go because she wants conversion.

She actually did the first video to nominate me.  Then when I had enough votes, then  I had  to do the video myself so they could hear from me directly.

RHR:  Did you have any reservations about actually going through with this?

MS:  No, for me I’m pretty easy.  I’m really laid back and I’m also very much a people person.  As long as I don’t have a language barrier…I’m happy anywhere, just being around people.  The only difficulty was being away from my family for that long.

RHR:  What are your thoughts now that you’ve returned?

MS:  It’s just been a very unique experience.  I don’t think the story involves me nearly as much.  I told Sean…that you can leave me on the cutting room floor.  This is Holly’s story.  That’s what you need to hear.

RHR:  Holly’s story is the most pivotal part of this, but what would you like people to take away from YOUR part of the film?

MS:  Pete and I, Pete was the other atheist, he and I both just wanted people to see just because you’re [an] atheist doesn’t mean you’re anti-religion.  We’re not militant in our non-belief.  We both realize that faith is a powerful thing.  Faith is a good thing for people.  It just doesn’t make sense to us. It doesn’t make sense to me.  A lot of people have a preconceived notion when they hear the word atheist like we’re against them.  But that’s not the case.  People frequently ask when they find out my wife is a Catholic and I’m an atheist, ‘How does that work? You guys are opposite.‘    You see, we’re not opposite.  If I worshipped the devil, we’d be opposite.  In this case, I just don’t have a horse in the race.  I share many many similar values of people of Catholic or Christian faiths, and that’s what I think a lot of people see in the film….  You’re seeing that we have shared  values.  We both want to be good to other people. We all want to be a better person today than the one we were yesterday.  We’re all just trying to be better and be respective of others and treat everybody with dignity and respect, but I don’t think you need faith in order to do that.  I think that’s something we can do on our own.

RHR:  Why go back to Medjugorje if your beliefs haven’t changed?

MS:  It’s nice to just unplug and go to such a peaceful environment.  Another reason I wanted to go [back] was to reconnect with people from the film because our schedule was so hectic when we were there for filming.  I didn’t know when we came back exactly how [everyone] had been affected…I didn’t have a chance to do a debrief and get what their experiences were.   We wanted to get back and sit down with them without having a camera following us every minute and just reconnect.

RHR:  Is there anything else you would like to add?

MS: If you’re a person of faith you should go to Medjugore.  It’s not about the apparitions or any other supernatural phenomenon that occurs there. It gives you the opportunity to live your faith.  For me and any other non-believers, I think you can watch the film without being spiritual and take a lot away from it because the film really touches on the human condition.  Sean grabbed so many personalities that we all know somebody in one of those pairs of shoes.  So different people resonate in different ways to those that are watching it….especially with Holly.  If you’re a parent…it’s very visceral watching that unfold.  And that’s a great reminder that we  take too much for granted and we need to appreciate the time that we have and not lose sight of that.  It’s a great reminder of what we have and what we should be thankful for.

To listen to the review in its entirety go to archive.org

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The world has been struck by lightning…his name is Usain Bolt.  Jamaican-born sprinter Usain Bolt is considered the fastest human ever timed.  He earned 9 gold medals and holds world records in the 100 M and 200 M events as well as the 4 x 100 relay.  No one has ever held these records simultaneously.  I Am Bolt” uncovers how this great athlete accomplished what no other sprinter will most likely ever do again.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

“I Am Bolt” takes us on a journey behind the scenes of training, competing, and living the life of the  world’s greatest athlete and sprinter.  If you thought you knew this man, think again.  “I Am Bolt” brings us to a greater understanding of who he really is and what makes him tick.  It’s a positively inspiring message for not just young athletes, but for everyone.

The documentary creates an unusual blend of filming as we hear from those closest to Bolt;  his best friend and manager, his coach, his teammates, and his parents.  We get a glimpse into his past through photos, footage, and interviews.  Bolt, from humble beginnings or as Ziggy Marley describes him, “…poor in terms of economics, but was rich with talents, with life, rich with substance…” finds dedication and perseverance to be the tools to continually reach his goals.   Thrusting forward, we are brought back to all the major competitions in Bolt’s life as well as his injuries that seemed to plague him throughout his career.  Bolt’s final performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics had everyone on edge as this would be his last appearance at an Olympic games.  “Bolt openly talks about his thoughts and feelings from the age of 15, his first win and one of the most meaningful in his life, to thdsc_2887e 2016 Olympics and what still motivates him.

Bolt films a portion of this documentary himself.  With his traveling schedule and training, he talks to the camera, much the way you or I would write in a journal.  He expresses his frustrations with his injuries, but has faith in his coach and trainers to help him recover.  His competitive nature and work ethic are his driving forces for recovery and ultimately, winning.  As Bolt discusses his deepest insecurities and bold statements of confidence (rightfully so!), we can identify with this remarkable athlete.  Maybe we can’t run even a fraction as fast as he can, but deep down, he struggles with his goals and how to obtain them.  Focus, respect for his competitors as well as those around him keeps him positive.

Knowing the history of Usain Bolt and his legendary wins around the world, accomplishing what most of us will probably never see again, three Olympics with a total of nine gold medals, the film brings you back to these races to discover and feel the excitement as if we are right there on the track.  Serena Williams says it best, “You’re rooting fdsc_3597-2or you country and then you see Bolt and you’re like I’m rooting for  Bolt.”  Bolt intrinsically instills a sense of pride in what he stands for.  He is the model of honor within the sports arena.  Everyone around the world admires and is positively impacted by this great athlete.  He has accomplished even more than 9 gold medals…he has given the world a bond.

“I Am Bolt” is not just a glimpse inside Usain Bolt’s life, but also a chance to get to know, understand, and relate to this extraordinary man and what it took to get to this point in his remarkable life.  “I Am Bolt” is inspiring, uplifting, and motivational.  Usain Bolt has struck the world and that iconic stance will forever be forged in our hearts and our minds.

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If you’re in Chicago, you can see this film on Monday, November 28 at the  Landmark  Century Centre Cinema.  For a full listing of locations, go to www.iamboltfilm.com

“I Am Bolt” is available on VOD and DVD on December 6, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

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“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” a film about a group of Iraq War vets who return home to a victory tour only to confront the contrasting realities of war and the retelling of it, opens this weekend at Movies 10.

Daily Journal film critic Pam Powell recently caught up with director Ang Lee.

Some of your earliest films such as “Pushing Hands” and “The Wedding Banquet” deal with the social and political issues in your home country of Taiwan. How do you think filmmaking will change in today’s current political and social environment?

Wow, that’s a tough question. From my perspective, I grew up in Taiwan in the Cold War era. I came here in 1978. I knew Americans from movies and televisbilyion — romanticized versions of Americans.

When I first came to America, I actually saw real people. It was like walking through a big movie set. After 36 or 38 years … I’m so focused on filmmaking [and] many of them are American studies. That really helped me understand the country I admired and dreamed of — and also experience the reality and confusion.

To read the interview in its entirety as it is printed in the Saturday, Nov. 19th edition of The Daily Journal, go to daily-journal.com

“Edge of Seventeen”

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Do you remember what it was like to be 17? As your memories come flooding back, you probably wouldn’t go back to being a teen in high school for any amount of money!

 

However, the new film “The Edge of Seventeen,” starring Hailee Steinfeld as Nadine, brings you back to that mindset in the current day setting. Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, this coming-of-age movie is deightful and insightful.

 

Steinfeld was adamant about the fact that this is not a teen movie, but a coming-of-age film.

While Nadine thinks she has the answers to everything in life, she realizes “that she absolutely does not [and then] realizes that’s OK,” Steinfeld said. “She has this strength, this underlying strength that really comes through, that I think every young woman has.”

“What makes this film universal is the fact that forms of communication change, but relationships don’t. I think growing up doesn’t change,” Steinfeld added.

READ THE ARTICLE IN ITS ENTIRETY HERE as it was printed in the Friday, November 18th edition of The Daily Journal

 

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There are champions in the sports’ arena, but there are also champions in life.  Vinny Pazienza is just that champion in both life and sports as his drive and determination, against all odds, allowed him to obtain the comeback of a lifetime.  Pazienza, a former professional boxer and world champion, at the peak of his career was in a life-altering car accident, fracturing his spine.  Recovering from this injury just to walk again would seem unlikely, but Pazienza wanted to fight again and become the champion he felt he was destined to be.  ”Bleed for This,” starring Miles Teller, tells this remarkable tale of determination, recreating Pazienza’s life on the silver screen.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

For those of you who think this is just a story about boxing, another Rocky-type of film, you’d be wrong.  Although boxing is the vehicle that drives the filbleedaccidentm, it captures the heart and soul of a man who couldn’t accept the probable outcome of his accident.  ”Bleed for This,” written and directed by Ben Younger, chronicles Pazienza’s life before he gained world-champion status. Taking place back in the 80′s, we are transported back to a time of shag carpet and plastic runners with oil-cloth table covers in the depressed New England area.  This tight-knit Italian family, living in Rhode Island, is as involved and stereotypical as you could imagine, bringing a beautifully interesting element to the story.   Pazienza’s confidence and lust for life comes across as clear as a bell.  He gains stature in the boxing world, and just before he fights in a new weight class for another champship belt, the accident occurs.  His family and friends, thankful for his survival, are less supportive of him training to get back into the ring.  Pazienza forges ahead, against all medical advice, knowing that the consequences could end his life.  But his trainer, Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) sticks with him, sometimes reluctantly so. It’s truly a passionate story about what drives all of us and what living means to each of us, individually.

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Vinnie Pazienza

Teller creates a believable fighter and for those who recall this boxer, they say he truly embodies Pazienza.  He lives and breathes boxing and Teller gives us this sense.  Physically, he’s bulked up and film sequences show that he can move in a boxing ring.  Eckhart’s character is much more complex than I would have predicted.  He has a drinking problem, relationship issues, and is a bit of a has-been.  His character yo-yos back and forth between giving up and driving ahead, much like we all do in real life.  We feel his pain and seem to understand his deep emotional discord and internal conflict, just by watching his reactions.  It’s not so much what he says, it’s how he says it.  Eckhart’s portrayal of Rooney wonderfully balances the straightforward unquestioning personality of Teller’s Pazienza.  Ciaran Hinds stands out as the strong and  proud yet emotionally conflicted father.  The entire cast is just as strong as Pazienza’s upper right cut.

Whenever you have a film that centers around a sport, particularly boxing, the cinematography is as much of a character as the actors.  The camera brings you into the boxing ring as you witness each devastating blow to the head, gut, and ribs.  It captures the brutality of this, in my mind, rather barbaric sport.  The grainy texture to the film also brings us back in time to capture the 1980′s to give us an almost tactile experience.

“Bleed for This” is more than a boxing film.  It’s a film about heart and determination.  The story is beautifully told in a linear fashion to take us along Vinnie’s journey.  If you didn’t know the story already, it might seem to be a predictable one, but remember, this is a true story.  What is of concern to me, as I review films like this, is that it doesn’t portray the long-term results of constant head trauma, aka boxing.  Movies like this seem to encourage youngsters to delve into whatever sport it portrays.  I would be personally remiss if I didn’t mention this aspect of the film.

7 REELS out of 10