5 April 2004 | rsoonsa
A BETTER THAN AVERAGE STUDENT FILM.
Following his release from a California prison where he has served 14 years for manslaughter, Pete Bales (John LaMotta) arrives in Los Angeles with a defined purpose: to see his son who was an infant when Bales was convicted, but his wife has left with the boy for Arizona, where she resides with her new swain, and Pete is forbidden by parole regulations to cross a state line. A neighbour of Pete's absent family, Sheila (Kirstin Alley) knows the address of where they went in Phoenix, but is wary of the ex-convict and he must overcome her defenses in order to locate his son while at the same time endeavour to reenter society, a difficult process as his attempts to find work are given the brushoff due to his incarceration that he does not try to hide from prospective employers. This is the initial full-length feature for director Samuel Firstenberg, being in effect graduate level work subsequent to his completion of cinema studies at Loyola-Marymount University in Los Angeles, and is well-done, winning an award at Chicago's film festival, being labeled a "social drama" by the director (who also scripted) due to its bent toward the proletarian, and includes as well a significant Jewish cultural element, obviously close to Firstenberg's heart. He is fortunate here in having the excellent sound mixing services of Mark Ulano, and of Johnathon Braun's first cinematographic effort, as each contributes to the realistic tenor of this well-edited piece, that also benefits from capable casting and nuanced performances from the two leads; it is unfortunate that the film is not better-known for, notwithstanding some superficial passages and problems with continuity, it has definite narrative force.