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Plot: After the death of his father, a former football star reunites with the family that he abandoned years earlier.
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|6.5/10 Votes: 143|
|5.5 Votes: 4 Popularity: 2.967|
What is Charles Burnett, the director of brilliant, oppressive tales of Black life like KILLER OF SHEEP and MY BROTHER’S WEDDING doing directing a made-for-TV movie on the Hallmark Channel? The flip and glib answer is that he is a director and can use the work, but watching this movie with its constant level of pain for the first fifty minutes, the answer is: telling the same sort of story he always has. If the settings are cleaner than his earlier work, if the actors are handsomer and more professional, there is still the same sense of anguish and alienation that always suffuses his work.
Eriq LaSalle plays Walter, a man who was set to be a professional football player until a knee injury sidelined him. He left his wife, children and hometown and wandered for the better part of a decade until the death of his father brings him back to town for the reading of the will. Anger and resentment suffuse every scene and rightfully and really so. As Walter struggles almost incoherently to try to make some amends for his failures, Burnett and his crew evoke some real sympathy for his plight.
However, this being a Hallmark TV-movie, there are some givens: there will be reconciliation, there will be some improvement, and this serves to render the film not banal, but more standard. As a result, this is a very good piece of work, but not a great one.
Yet, given the small amount of Mr. Burnett’s work over the last forty years, we can be grateful for this. It is a real story, well told and that, alas, is all too rare.
Relative Stranger is Beyond Somewhere **1/2
This film is essentially Bill Cosby and the Huxtable Family on television in a major conflict.
The story would have been far better had it dealt with an impoverished white or black family. Instead, we’re dealing with an upper class family whose father abandoned them 6 years ago and has now returned following the death of his father. What are we trying to prove here? We have heard time and time again from sociologists about the missing father in African-American families and how this hurts their socio-economic status in society. Now, we’re given the missing paternal figure with a wealthy family of African-Americans.
In addition, someone should tell Cicely Tyson to stop playing Miss Jane Pittman over and over again.
All this aside, there are some very good performances by Michael Beach, as the headstrong brother as well as the gentleman in the title role. The two young children convey the idea of a lost father whose presence they need so badly in their lives.
While I praise Beach’s work, how could the writer coincidentally use the reappearance of the father at the same time that the brother (Beach) proposes to his sister-in-law only to learn that she never filed the divorced papers? That seems very tacky to me.
Original Language en
Runtime 1 hr 28 min (88 min) (USA)
Director Charles Burnett
Writer Eric Haywood
Actors Eriq La Salle, Cicely Tyson, Michael Michele, Michael Beach
Awards Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 4 nominations.
Production Company N/A
Sound Mix Stereo
Aspect Ratio 1.33 : 1
Film Length N/A
Negative Format N/A
Cinematographic Process N/A
Printed Film Format N/A