STONE BOY, THE (director: Christopher Cain; screenwriter: from the story by Gina Berriault/Gina Berriault; cinematographer: Juan Ruiz Anchía; editor: Paul Rubell; music: James Horner; cast: Robert Duvall (Joe Hillerman), Jason Presson (Arnold Hillerman), Glenn Close (Ruth Hillerman), Susan Blackstone (Nora Hillerman), Dean Cain (Eugene Hillerman), Frederic Forrest (Andy Jansen, Arnold’s Uncle), Wilford Brimley (George Jansen, Grandfather), Gail Youngs (Lu Jansen), Cindy Fisher (Amalie, Waitress at Cafe/Andy’s lover); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Joe Roth/Ivan Bloch; Anchor Bay Entertainment; 1984)
“Compassionately told and finely acted.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Another outstanding quiet drama like Tender Mercies, featuring Robert Duvall. It involves a tragedy facing a Montana farmer’s family and their stoicism that leaves a young boy traumatized with guilt. Director Christopher Cain’s intense drama is adapted from the short story by Gina Berriault.
The 12-year-old Arnold Hillerman (Jason Presson) and his 17-year-old brother Eugene (Dean Cain) get up before dawn to pick peas and go duck hunting, even though it’s out of season, but Arnold’s shotgun hammer gets caught in a barbed wire fence and accidentally goes off killing Eugene. Instead of telling his parents, Arnold continues picking peas remembering Eugene told him that if they’re not picked before sunrise they’ll spoil. The father, Joe (Robert Duvall), doesn’t understand his son’s reaction and why he can’t cry. As a result he treats the youngster coldly, as do his wife Ruth (Glenn Close) and sister Nora. They are encouraged by the patriarch’s chilling comment to his wife when the boy attempts to talk to her “Leave him alone, and maybe he’ll realize what he’s done.”
Things spiral out of control for the immediate family after the tragedy, as Arnold’s next-door neighbor, his married Uncle Andy (Frederic Forrest), seduces Eugene’s grieving waitress girlfriend Amalie (Cindy Fisher). Later on his pregnant wife Lu (Gail Youngs, the wife of Robert Duvall at the time) in a moment of exasperation screams at the boy, ”It’s all your fault!” After her miscarriage, Lu leaves her womanizing hubby. Arnold will later run away to visit her in Reno, sensing she could be a kindred spirit, but can only get her to accept his apology and not offer anything more tangible.
The only comfort Arnold gets is from his grandfather George (Wilford Brimley), who offers his unconditional love and wisdom as he understands what the shocked boy is going through and that he doesn’t have the ability to express his emotions. The heart of the film revolves around a few of the magical scenes between the hurt boy and the feeling grandfather.
It results in a sensitive psychological family drama, about a family unable to deal effectively with their grief and loss, that is compassionately told and finely acted.
REVIEWED ON 6/4/2005 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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