I realize most of my “reviews” really aren’t. Oh well!
I finally got around to watching this last night. I thought it was perfectly fine flick, excellent both as a period piece (and I eat up pretty much everything from this particular time period) and as a well-told story. The opening credits describe the movie as “a true story” rather than “based on a true story”, and I appreciate the distinction. The screenwriter had to submit citations for every scene in the film in order to be able to say that.
The back half of the movie kind of drags, though. There are several interesting plots that intersect, but it feels like they’re all resolved too early and the movie just drones on and on doing the wrap-up. And since this is a true story, and this true story happens to not really have an ending, the conclusion of the movie was kind of a downer. I don’t mean in the good sense of the downer ending, where the good guy dies or the bad guy gets away. I mean, the movie breaks your heart and never gives you any peace about it. It tries, but at the end of the day the headline is still “little boy murdered; never conclusively found”.
The most vivid thing I brought away from this movie was the absolutely most bone-chilling visual depiction of a hanging I have ever seen in cinema. I’ve braved the depths of Japanese torture porn, and I have never seen anything that has left me quite as cold as this. The way they march the man to the gallows, the way he pleads for a prayer, the way he counts the stairs on the way up… I mean, you’d count the stairs too, wouldn’t you? If you knew they’d be your last stairs ever?
Anyway. I definitely recommend the film, if you can stomach being terminally sad for two hours and are enthralled by imagery from 1920s America.