Graceful examination of guilt and grief

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Parallel tales in different decades eventually connect with a live-wire jolt in this slow-burning curio, superbly acted by a starry cast. In modern Mississippi we meet Stephen (Joseph Fiennes) who, paroled after 15 years in jail, starts work at a diner terrorised by redneck regular Horace (Dennis Hopper). Thirty-three years earlier, Mary (Elisabeth Shue), the clever young wife of an inattentive husband, despairingly fucks their house-painter, giving birth to Leo eight months later, the night her husband and first child violently die. Raised loveless by his guilt-savaged mum, Leo cruises through the years towards Stephen’s intercut tale.

Debut Brit director Mehdi Norowzian lets the twin stories simmer in the Mississippi heat, and draws out perfect performances. Shue seizes the chance to equal her performance in Leaving Las Vegas as a mother whose heart is torn out by frustration and guilt, making her a tragic monster. Fiennes is almost retardedly repressed, while Hopper is at his most poisonous since Paris Trout. A fascinating fable.


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