1 March 2009 | mgconlan-1
Heartbreaking and exhilarating
I have rarely seen ANYTHING that moved me as much as "For the Love of a Child." Based on the true story of Childhelp International and the two women who founded it, this film brought tears to my eyes (and I rarely cry at movies -- show me a "tear-jerker" with an overannuated actress dying of a fatal disease to the accompaniment of treacly string music and my eyes remain dry every time). This film works on every level: a sensitive script by Duane Poole that showcased both the depths of depravity and the heights of nobility that we humans are capable of; quiet, understated direction by Douglas Barr, who trusted the story to tell itself without gimmicks or visual trickery; and acting by a remarkable ensemble cast who vividly brought these people to life. David McNally's performance as the abusive stepdad is one of the most intense portraits of controlled evil I've seen on screen, but the real "star" of this movie is Matthew Knight, the remarkable child actor who played Jacob and brought all his moods and emotions to vivid life. One wonders how Douglas Barr got this performance out of him, and in particular just how much the director told him about abused children generally and the character specifically -- it's a marvelous acting job but I can't help but wonder whether the boy might be scarred just from having to act these scenes. The film is a tribute to the human spirit that a group such as Childhelp can exist -- even though it's also an all too accurate portrayal of the dark side of our natures that requires a group like Childhelp to exist in the first place. The editing between the current story and the flashbacks in the first hour occasionally gets confusing, but that's the only negative thing I'd have to say about this great film.