Rated: PG-13 Reviewed by: Frank Release date: August 25, 1993 Released by: Warner Brothers
Mel Gibson directs and plays Justin McLeod, an outsider living in a quiet coastal village of Maine. He has serious scars on his face and body from a fiery car accident, the town folks, particularly the kids, make him the object of rumor and scorn, and he lives in solitude with his books and paintings, his brilliant teaching career cut short. Twelve-year-old Chuck Narstadt (Nick Stahl) is sometime also an outsider to his family of two stepsisters and a superficial, flirtatious mother, who is about to marry husband number five.
Based on the novel by Isabelle Holland, the relationship which grows between McLeod and Chuck as McLeod attempts to help the twelve-year-old pass an entrance exam for military school is one which forms Chuck's learning skills into adulthood. It is prejudice and ignorance which he loves and is greatly skilled at.
The learning situations created in the one to one situation are similar to the type Henry David Thoreau described in his journals written at Walden Pond. They are filled with creativity and a growing sense on Chuck's part that learning can be fun and that McLeod, who he calls Sir, is a great teacher and tragic figure.
The performances are remarkable and Gibson's direction is brilliant. The color and shadow of the woods and the shore are dark, yet filled with beauty, as is the story. The prejudice hurts McLeod but the summer is a turning point for Chuck. Without attempting to draw emotional tears, Gibson directs positive and uplifting ending. Put this one on you list.
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