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All Roads Lead Home

Throughout the course of everybody’s life we have to face more than a few tragedies. Perhaps the worse is the untimely death of a loved one. The way this grief is manifested depends heavily on the nature of the relation to the deceased. Parents who lose their child reacted differently from a child losing a parent. Both are equally devastating but the way the person copes with the death is unique and extremely personal. Because circumstances such as these invoke the most powerful emotional reaction they are frequently used in literature and film. Some such works are taken to a melodramatic extreme and loose their impact but when down with taste and style the results can be a film that touches the audience and moves them to realistic emotional depths. One such film is ‘All Roads Lead Home’ by Dennis Fallon. This film reaches out to the viewers and draws them into a world of people damaged forever by a loss and in desperate need of emotional and psychological healing. It is not has heavy handed as you may initially think. It is a family oriented film that delicately explores the way a sudden loss can affect the interpersonal relationships of a family. There is sensitivity to this film that is especially important considering the delicate nature of the themes. While it is a family film parents should be careful about letting the smaller children in your household watch it. Parents should view it with the kids and gently discuss the film afterwards. Besides the topic of a loved one dying there is also a strong thread of the rights of animals and the need to respect them as sentient, living creatures. Death is one topic that has to come up sooner or later in a family so you might as well take advantage of a well done film like this. A movie like this is too good for the after school venue and not quite what attracts the major studios. Fortunately there are ways to get a deserving movie like this out. One way is the film festival circuit and this movie won the Best Film honors at the International Family Film Festival. After a limited theatrical run it is now available on DVD through Stars / Anchor Bay. They have been taking the lead in little gems like this one.

This was an initial screenplay for writer Douglas Delaney. It is simply incredible that a man with no previous experience scripting should come up with a story as poignant and well constructed as this one. It would be difficult enough for an author to deal with one very emotional topic but Delaney goes beyond expectations with a strong theme of animal rights to the mix. The overall impact of this film is to show that all life deserves to life and grow. It hit personally since my family has always supported the human treatment of animals but I have never seen this subject handled with such grace. The two stories; human and animal, are intertwined to perfection. Many animal activist groups go through extreme measures to make a similar point. Throwing blood on people who wear fur or protesting so called puppy mills often backfires against the desired message. A movie like this make the same point in such a way that you will have to respond. The most important thing about this screenplay is the multigenerational appeal. It never talks down to the kids and refrains from making the adults seem overpowering or worse yet clueless. Every character in the story is provided an opportunity to become fully developed. They were painted with a fine brush that juxtaposes the good and bad qualities that all human beings share. The moral lesson is there and comes across loud and strong but it is not forced. The conflict and ultimate resolutions are organically grown. Delaney doesn’t rely are contrivances to get his point across; he is a man who knows how to tell an engrossing story.

Dennis Fallon took on the direction of this film with an obvious commitment to the project. This is also his first film and after watching it you will immediately become a fan and anxiously await his future films. I have to admit that when I received the screener for this film I thought to myself that this would be another flick in the style of so many Lifetime Channel movies. I expected something overly touchy-feely and melodramatic. By the end of the film was entranced by the beauty of the film. Fallon has a few flaws in the direction but they pall in comparison to the over all effect it has on the audience. This is fundamentally a coming of age story of a young girl, Belle Lawlor (Vivien Cardone). The turning point of her life is the death of her mother. This alters her relationship to the two most important men in her life; her father and grandfather. Out of this death comes a greater appreciation for life whether human or animal. Fallon doesn’t use any fancy camera or lighting tricks that are so popular especially with newer directors. His camera is a simple tool that is used to provide a vantage point into the most personal moments in the lives of the characters. It has to be some arduous task to take on a film like this and avoid becoming sappy but Fallon does it with élan.

Life is pretty good for twelve year old Belle. That is until one day her mother is driving the car and swerves to avoid hitting a deer. The crash kills her mother devastating Belle and her father Cody (Jason London). Belle reacts badly to her grief acting out and generally behaving badly. Her father decides that a change in scenery is what is needed and takes Belle to visit his father, Hock (Peter Coyote). He is a professional dog breeder and shocks Belle when he orders an employee to toss some less than perfect puppies into the river. He states that this is necessary to ‘preserve the breed’. Belle cannot stand by and watch the puppies die so she dives into the river to save them. This starts Belle off on a journey of self discovery that leads her to become an animal rights advocate. She adopts the dog and her puppies as well as a broken down horse. Hock harbors resentment towards Belle because of her uncanny resemblance to his late daughter, Belle’s mother. As Belle gains a greater appreciation for all living things she also comes to reach out to her father and grandfather.

This is just a gentle little film that will have great meaning for the entire family. It is something that you will enjoy together many times. Do yourself and your family a favor and get it.

Posted 12/18/08

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