This movie from 2005 had me actually shivering during the entire screening. I could say it was because it just turned cold here this week. It is a spectacular autumn in Arkansas this year. I can't remember the trees ever being more vivid just before they lose their leaves in a storm that is surely on its way from the northeast, as it usually is this time of year. I could say the shivering was due to the weather. I could say I finally broke down and turned on the heat in the house today because of the damp chill in the air. But that would all be a lie. I was shivering because this movie is so damn uncomforting that there is not one minute in it where I was not literally short of breath.
The whole concept of pedophilia is one that most men really just don't want to discuss. And there's a very good reason for that. I guess you've read Nabokov's masterpiece, Lolita. When most men read Lolita, what do you think their opinion of old Humbert is? Do you think that most men find him a repulsive degenerate, or do you think that most men find a bit of themselves lodged in the edges of those pages and actually place some of the blame on the girl for what occurs in that book?
I'm no psychologist, but I have lived a long life and I've seen a well-turned ankle on a young girl who knows how to get what she wants by lowering her gaze to the ground just so and then looking up under innocent eyelids at just the right moment. I heard a great writer and a man whom I admire for his lack of mental mufflers when he thinks out loud say this the other day: Any woman is past her prime when she hits twenty. That's a very unpopular statement because there is power in numbers and there are a hell of a lot more women over twenty than under. But when it comes to the come-hither aspect of love/lust based on pure sexual attraction and pheromones, I think most men would shake their heads "yes" even if they'd never admit it to anyone. After all, the sexiest thing in the world is naughty curiosity. Tell me I'm wrong about that. That's probably why they grow healthy crops of underage Catholic boys out there on that ranch where the priests spend their sabbaticals. That's probably why "teen" is the most often searched for word in the world of online porn. (I didn't research that "fact" but I'd be surprised if it's not true.)
However, all this talk may be misleading you about this film. Sure, the premise of this film rests on pedophilia, but it gets much, much deeper than that. The folks who made the movie say that folks have tended to either love this movie or hate it with a passion. I can see why.
l happened to fall into the "love it" category. I love any film that draws me in and makes me watch every frame, no matter how badly I want to turn away. And, if you're a man with a pair, there are points in this film where you will definitely want to turn away. This stickiness of a film is usually based on the characters and how the actors do their jobs. There are only two actors in this piece, and I can't imagine any other two virtual unknowns doing a better job. The story is very good, as is has to be in a great film, but it could have become just a gimmick in the hands of lesser actors.
Ellen Page, with her freckles and her bangs, does such a job with the character Hayley that it is hard to imagine it done better. By anyone. Think of all the Jodie Fosters and Drew Barrymores who would have never in a million years of practice been able to pull off a performance like this at age 18. (She's playing a 14 year old, and she looks a whole lot more like 14 than 18.) Think of what a mess could have been made of this role. In case you think you've seen Ellen Page somewhere before, you might have caught some of the Trailer Park Boys episodes where she played Jim's daughter, Treena Lahey.
Jeff, the 32 year old "photographer," is played by Patrick Wilson, who will probably see his ticket punched more often after this performance. Jo Willems is the cinematographer. It is directed by David Slade who did mostly music videos prior to this. And the screenplay is by Brian Nelson, a fellow who seems to know just a little too much about teenage girls and their online quirks.
I can't recommend this film highly enough. I haven't seen anything that stuck with me for this long since I saw Intacto several years ago. And I'm still thinking about that one.
I keep hearing that Jerry Garcia cover version of Smokey Robinson's song running through my head:
"When the hunter gets captured by the game . . ."