Henry David Thoreau wrote of people who lead "lives of quiet desperation." This film is a literal enactment of Thoreau's words.
"Meadowland" tells the harrowing story of parents who have lost a child. In an unremarkable stop at a gas station, Sarah and Phil wait for their son to come out of the bathroom. But he has decided to use the back door and go off exploring. But the child never comes back. The film moves forward to a year after the disappearance with the parents struggling with their grief and anxiety.
The intensity of the emotional anguish registers in every moment of the film, as Sarah and Phil attempt to carry on their lives as an English teacher and a police officer. The film explores the phenomenon of displacement as Sarah becomes overly involved with a student at her elementary school and Phil loses his boundaries when getting the address of the drunken driver for a member of his support group. In their own ways, Sarah and Phil are lost souls.
The film is successful in developing compassion for people who are suffering emotional trauma. The realistic details are astounding, especially with Tim, the soft-spoken brother of Phil, who always seems to be searching for words. One of the best scenes in the film occurs on the apartment rooftop where Tim shares his dope with Sarah and recognizes that she has made an attempt on her life. He cannot find anything to say to comfort her, but the empathy registers on his face and in his body language. This and other scenes tell the poignant story of lives of quiet desperation and the battles that humans are fighting inside that are often unknown to the insensitive outside world.
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