29 December 2002 | osgrath
Compelling and disturbing
This movie packs a punch. There are a few every now and then that make me think deeply, and disturb me a lot. I could see myself in this same predicament - passively allowing things to happen around me, not standing up for the right and decent thing, just trying to avoid trouble. How often do we avoid making waves or sticking our necks out? How often does our inaction condone the evil actions of others. We would never join them, we tell ourselves, we recognize that what they are doing is bad, but do we do anything about it?
Lawrence Newman (William H. Macey) is a low-key, nerdy office worker who has paid off his home in Brooklyn, NY in the waning days of World War II. He rarely gets engaged in what is going on around him, has never married, rarely socializes, just goes to work and cares for his invalid mother. Then a series of events in his very "white" little neighborhood pull him out of his complacent shell into a maelstrom of events. It starts as he witness from his bedroom window the rape of a Puerto Rican girl by the son of his neighbor. Soon after he gets glasses because of poor vision. As he is now better able to see, he becomes less able to deal with the circumstances of his life. The one bright spot is a new love in his life, and he marries, hoping to continue on in his normalcy. Then the virulent anti-semitism on that street catches him, despite his credentials as a Presbyterian WASP. As things spiral further out of control, he discovers he must make an important decision - does he take a stand or does he simply go away.
I cannot how anybody can view this movie without being affected and having to think very much about themselves and what they really stand for. Post war anti-semitism is the setting here, but there is injustice at all times and in all places. It is for the individual to decide where he or she stands.