Sundance 2011 Review: THE SON OF NO ONE
Writer: Dito Montiel
Director: Dito Montiel
Cast: Channing Tatum, Al Pacino, Juliette Binoche
Director Dito Montiel teams up with Channing Tatum for their third feature together (the previous two being A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS and FIGHTING) to tell the story of whether or not one should (or does) pay for their sins. THE SON OF NO ONE has Tatum as New York police officer Jonathan White, a man who is so clearly carrying a heavy burden you do not even need to look past his sad eyes to know his struggle may be more than he can bear.
Montiel has never shied away from the grit and in-your-face truth when telling his stories and THE SON OF NO ONE does not stray too far from that format. The film starts out with flashbacks to Jonathan’s childhood as we watch him make some life changing choices, the consequences of which do not bubble up until his adulthood. As an adult, Jonathan has a family and a life he is trying to protect, but when he is transferred to the precinct of his old neighborhood, his past begins to catch up with him.
Anonymous letters begin getting published in a local paper suggesting two murders committed twenty years prior were covered up by the police. Reporter Lauren Bridges (Juliette Binoche), who has her own prejudices towards the police force, continues to publish them, hellbent on allowing whatever truth is trying to come out be brought to light. Although they try to play it off, some key players in Jonathan’s new precinct are obviously uncomfortable with this turn of events and, try as he might to resist it, Jonathan gets pulled right into the fray of it all.
Unfortunately, as the story begins to unfold, the film seems to go off-course. Detective Stanford’s (Al Pacino) interaction with a young Jonathan (played by Jake Cherry) as they make the decision to ensure his future as Stanford considers him a “good” kid and damn those he considered “bad” had the promise of delving into some real issues. But as we fast forward to Jonathan’s adult life, this stance on good versus evil and who has the right to decide are sadly glossed over. Rather than really getting into the reasoning behind these decisions, we end up spending the latter half of the film making sure the actions themselves stay covered up and never really getting to the heart of the matter.
The final confrontation at the end of the film should have been the emotional climax of the journey, as all our central characters come together, but it ended up almost confusing rather than affecting. From the choppy editing to the unresolved reactions of the characters, I was surprised to be left with almost a newsreel wrap-up as the camera panned back from the characters rather than taking the opportunity to (finally) bring us in.
THE SON OF NO ONE starts out promising, but loses its focus in the end. The one thing that it makes clear is that all choices come with consequences. Even if no repercussions ensue, no one is ever able to walk away without a few more scars and/or a few more secrets to remind them of their decisions.
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