(director/writer: David Oyelowo; screenwriter:Emma Needell; cinematographer: Matthew J. Lloyd; editor: Blu Murray; music: Peter Baert; cast: Lonnie Chavis (Gunner), Rosario Dawson (Mary Boone), David Oyelowo (Amos Boone), Maria Bello (Sheriif Goodwin), Amiah Miller (Jo), Alfred Molina (Jim); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Carla Gardini, Monica Levinson, David Oyelowo, Shivani Rawat; Harpo Films/an RLJE releases; 2020)

“It’s a sweet fantasy family drama involving such things as mom dying from leukemia, an urban legend and an aspiring artist son.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

UK actor David Oyelowo shines in his feature directorial debut and wins kudos for his tender father-son relationship story, that is co-written with Emma Needell. It’s a sweet fantasy family drama that’s grounded in real life situations involving such things as mom dying from leukemia, an urban legend and an aspiring artist son learning how to get along on his own. The strong visuals for the well-acted and well-crafted film are from DP
Matthew J. Lloyd’s good eye for capturing the woodsy surroundings and his good use of special effects to intensify the story.

The Boone family recently relocates to Pine Mills, a rural small town in Oregon. The lead character is the bookish teenager
Gunner (Lonnie Chavis), who freaks out when learning his caring mom Mary Boone (Rosario Dawson) has leukemia. The kid unfairly blames this on his absentee military-minded father Amos (David Oyelowo), a career Navy man.

Looking for anything to give him hope, the kid learns about a mythical character living in the woods who is a healer,
and is known as the Water Man. He learns this from an eccentric mortician named Jim (Alfred Molina) and then from his encounters with a unchaste girl named Jo (Amiah Miller), who once ran into the Water Man.

In a desperate move, Gunner goes into the woods with Jo to seek help from the Water Man. When his son is missing, Amos calls upon the local sheriff (Maria Bello) to track down his son.

Though the adolescent adventure coming-of-age film lacks thematic depth, its simple story touches our hearts and in an odd way tells its teen audience that caring so much for mom and reading are both cool things.