3 November 2001 | Geofbob
The everyday made poetic by a visionary eye
David Gordon Green's first miniscule-budget movie is strange and disconcerting, and appears to lack a real focus; but maybe that's its theme - the aimlessness and randomness of life in a poor North Carolina neighbourhood. But not from the conventional point of view that regards such lack of purpose as totally negative; but with a poetic, visionary eye that can see meaning and even beauty in things and people that appear on the surface to be mundane, derelict, pointless or absurd.
Ostensibly the film is about a group of kids, mainly black, who spend their time goofing around, as kids do, until there's a tragic accident, and then a heroic rescue, and George (Donald Holden) is at the centre of both the accident and rescue. And George is already marked out as an exceptional character, not only because he has a weak skull and has to wear a helmet, but because pretty Nasia (Candace Evanofski) has switched her affections to him from an apparently more attractive companion. The children are surrounded by, and inter-mingle with, a mixed bunch of adults, the most prominent being a group of manual workers, who alternately josh each other and make would-be serious statements. However sceptical he or she might have been initially, by the end of the film the viewer accepts that George is exceptional and possibly a potential hero; but whether the world in general will ever recognise this is more doubtful; though the movie ends on a hopeful note.
Technically, the film is fine; with great photography, striking visuals, and effective music. Nevertheless, it is hard to follow, because of its rough edges and loose ends; it is probably best regarded not as a narrative, but more as a series of vignettes. From a conventional viewpoint, much of the acting by Green's amateur cast, is "bad", reminiscent of early dramatised documentaries by, say, Robert Flaherty; but this crudity and stiltedness add to the surreal feel of the movie, and give the characters a grittiness that smooth "good" acting might not. Of all the movies I've seen lately, this is one I'd like to see again, when an opportunity arises.