NEW THIS WEEK
-- A TROUBLED COLLEGE STUDENT LEARNS FACTS ABOUT HER BIRTH AND PARENTAGE THAT TURN HER WORLD UPSIDE-DOWN IN THIS SUBTLY CHRISTIAN AND ANTI-ABORTION-THEMED, DRAMA:
OCTOBER BABY PG-13 -- The themes about late-term abortion and emotional upheaval in October Baby probably make it better fare for high-schoolers, despite the PG-13 rating. College student Hannah (Rachel Hendrix) has health issues -- asthma, epilepsy -- and a history of multiple surgeries. After she collapses during a student play and becomes distraught over her physical and emotional health, her father Jacob (John Schneider) feels compelled to tell her the story of her birth. He and his wife Grace (Jennifer Price) adopted Hannah, who was born prematurely following a botched late-term abortion. The more Hannah learns of her difficult origins, the less comforted and more distraught she becomes. She goes on a trip with her childhood friend Jason (Jason Burkey), his snarky new girlfriend (Colleen Trusler) and other pals. They to stop in Mobile, Ala., so Hannah can try to find her birth mother. Late in the film, Hannah talks with the nurse (Jasmine Guy) who was present at her birth. A product of the growing Christian-themed film industry, October Baby is solidly acted, and its message, while far from subtle, is delivered without bombast and with a sense of forgiveness. High-schoolers looking for a full debate about reproductive choice, however, will have to look beyond this movie.
THE BOTTOM LINE: While nothing graphic is shown, there is a description late in the film of a botched late-term abortion and then an emergency premature birth of twins in which one infant has serious injuries. When Hannah, Jason and their college friends go on their spring break, we never see them drink or doing anything sexual, but there is brief comic discussion of getting drunk, and some talk about Hannah still being a virgin. Also, Hannahs mother, Grace, is oddly passive and nearly absent in much of the film, with no explanation, except thats how it was written.
-- A DEEPLY AFFECTING, HIGHLY UNUSUAL FILM ABOUT A PARENTLESS BOY AND HIS DIFFICULT PATH TO A NEW GUARDIAN:
THE KID WITH A BIKE Not Rated, Limited Release -- Belgian filmmaker siblings Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have created a stark and extraordinary portrait of a desperately lonely preadolescent boy. This unrated film, in French with English subtitles, contains some brief profanity that warrants an R-rating, and is emotionally raw and best aimed at high-schoolers and college-age kids interested in international filmmaking. Though it ends on a hopeful note, The Kid with a Bike views childhood with an unblinking, unsentimental, and sometimes harsh eye. Cyril (Thomas Doret) lives in a boarding school/orphanage where the teachers are kind. However, he is a handful -- insistent on trying to find his absent father (Jeremie Renier) and the bike his father gave him. When Cyril learns that his father has moved away and sold the bike for cash, he runs from his teachers and into a doctors waiting room, where he puts his arms tightly around a random patient, Samantha (Cecile De France), whos waiting to see the doctor. Samantha feels a deep, instant empathy for Cyril. She tracks down the bike, buys it back for him, and agrees to be his weekend foster parent. But life does not go smoothly. Cyril and Samantha confront Cyrils father and the boy hears himself rejected out loud. Then he comes under the influence of a local delinquent (Egon Di Mateo). †
THE BOTTOM LINE: The movie contains no graphic violence, but there are disturbing scenes when Cyril takes part in a crime that involves hitting robbery victims with a bat. (They are not seriously injured.) In another scene, he tries to scratch and hurt himself. He also bites people who try to calm and restrain him. The teen hoodlum smokes cigarettes, uses midrange profanity, and talks about dealing drugs.�
-- A DRAMATIC COMEDY SET IN THE NATIVE MAORI COMMUNITY OF NEW ZEALAND ABOUT A FATHER WHO IS MORE CHILDISH THAN HIS PRETEEN SON:
BOY Not Rated, Limited Release -- Set in a rural Maori community in 1984 New Zealand, Boy is about the coming of age of an 11-year-old kid named Boy (James Rolleston), but its a film more appropriate for ages 17 and older. Up to now, he has thought of his absent dad, Alamein (writer/director Taika Waititi), as a sort of hero. In fact, his dad is a petty thief whos been serving jail time. Alamein and his hapless gang of two show up at Boys house just when the grandmother whos been raising him has left on a trip. The men, who behave like overgrown delinquents, take over the house and the lives of Boy, his little brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu), their cousins and friends. The men enlist the kids to help grow and harvest marijuana and dig up a field to find the stolen cash Alamein buried. They let Boy get drunk. While theres a lot of comedy in this atmospheric and culturally rich story, the sense that Boy is learning that his long-lost dad is back and is a pretty useless guy feels more tragic than funny. You do get the sense, though, that Boy could well overcome his childhood.
THE BOTTOM LINE: While unrated, Boy would probably warrant an R. There are flashback scenes with bloodied sheets that imply Boys mother died giving birth to him. Adults drink a lot and smoke marijuana, while the kids are recruited to grow and harvest it. The dialogue includes barnyard profanity and frequent use of the F-word. There is mild and occasionally crude sexual innuendo. In Boys imagination, he sees his dad as an outlaw hero. There is a scene of his dad breaking out of prison and gouging the eye of a prison guard (spurting blood), and Boy imagines other outlandish instances, both real and cartoon-like, of mayhem. In real life, his pet goat gets killed by a car.�
(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group.