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Hollow Reed

(1996) *** 1/2 R
104 min. Cinépix. Directors: Angela Pope, Catrin Strong. Cast: Martin Donovan, Joely Richardson, Ian Hart, Jason Flemyng, Sam Bould.

Hollow Reed is the sort of drama Hollywood thinks it has been making for years: earnest, gripping, emotional and real. of course, Hollywood dramas are more often artificial, predictable, and facile than this classy, crafty British import.

Martin Donovan stars as Martyn, a bona fide gay hero who uncovers the truth of his son's abuse at the hands of his ex-wife's boyfriend (Jason Flemyng). The constantly shifting alignment of these characters' orbits around each other produces a deeply felt story with minute attention to emotional detail and a fascinating study of unpredictable misunderstandings and hidden truths.

After a lengthy, incrementally suspenseful buildup, Martyn guesses the truth about son Oliver's presumably play-related injuries, and the quiet, suburban British landscape transforms into a battleground. When Martyn tries to reason with his deluded ex (Joely Richardson), he finds himself not only cut off from his increasingly endangered son, but defensive about his lifestyle as the inevitable legal tangle develops. Martyn's frantic realization that he is helpless to aid his son when he is needed most stirs the familiar desperate, emotions brought on by half-hearted Hollywood thrillers, and finds that energy heading in a believably convoluted direction more potent than that travelled by lesser films.

The cast, also including Ian Hart (Backbeat) as Martyn's levelheaded lover and Sam Bould as Martyn's emotionally disadvantaged son, is sturdy, and the direction by Angela Pope suitably unintrusive, excepting a well-earned, breathtaking climactic flourish. The comic picture of Hollywood attempting to film this screenplay brings to mind the ludicrous pitches of The Player. how about Bruce Willis as the gay man (except maybe he oughtn't be gay), Julia Roberts as the mother, and one of those Home Improvement kids as the abuse victim? Thank your lucky stars for this intelligent, restrained drama.

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