Stars: Dakota DuVall, Stacie Stocker and Michael Hanelin
|This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of 2014 films.|
Much of that is due to Dakota DuVall, a scenestealing little boy whose lack of technical skill is more than made up for by his infectious personality, his amazing grin and his knack of pulling exactly the right face at exactly the right moment. He plays Sammy, a precocious child clearly enjoying the stuffing out of life even though he's suffering from a medical condition that is never named and never explained. It merely means that his mother, Celia, has to take days off work at the drop of a hat to take care of him, which, of course, puts a strain on her as a single mother and precludes her from having a love life. As she explains to Elizabeth on the phone, as she tries to set Celia up with David Walker from work: 'I don't have time to go on dates. I have Sammy.' He's her priority, so her private e-mail address is going to stay private. Celia is portrayed by Stacie Stocker, an experienced Running Wild hand who is as excellent here as usual, but she's up against a dynamo of a co-star who steals every shared scene from her.
There's a quote from a Frank Sinatra song at the end of the credits that doesn't really apply to the story but does to the tone: 'Fairy tales can come true; it can happen to you if you're young at heart.' This does have its share of technical issues but it gets better and the joy that arrives when Sammy gets sneaky is a technical issue trumping sort of joy that stems equally from DuVall's voice, Stocker's acting and the script by Hartnett, who wrote and directed solo and produced and edited with Mills. While this was the first film she directed, it wasn't the last as she co-directed an IFP submission last year called And Then There Were Monsters and she's continued to rack up odd crew credits. However, unlike Gerkin, she's mostly remained in front of the camera, where she continues to shine, even if tears and red wine are not required props. It feels odd to watch a Hartnett picture that doesn't feature her on screen, but if she comes up with another odd idea like this one, I hope she takes another shot in the director's chair.