Thursday, October 10, 2019

hate crime

Fittingly, Steven Esteb's restrained, earnest drama Hate Crime opens with the metaphorical violence of men and machine interlaced--a quick scene of a man punching an off-screen victim and an idyllic green field mowed over by John Deere. The field will later become emblematic of a truce within a plane of enduring unease.

The film follows two sets of parents in small town Americana. Tom and Ginny Brown (Kevin Bernhardt and Amy Redford) go through their day up to the dreaded midnight hour when their son Raymond (Jordan Salloum) will be executed. They are in a phase of mourning that feels urgent, raw and fresh, and the film covers their vacillating array of emotions. Raymond's victim's parents--John and Marie Demarco (John Schneider and Laura Cayouette)--seem much more hardened and removed, perhaps because they have already undergone the shattering loss of their son. Through a single flashback scene of the crime, hints of discussion and emotional processing, it becomes evident that the two sons were romantically involved; Raymond was deeply afraid to be outed.

This is a very sensitively told story that seems out-of-time with our jaded era. Even the score, by Jay Weigel, featuring woozy strings and piano, feels like throwback to James Horner's most precious themes. I do appreciate the efforts of Esteb and the game cast (Redford in particular is a standout) bringing this work of good intentions to screen, especially considering the ignorance that still persists in our society. The movie is well-focused and clear-eyed and sympathetically-drawn.  ***

-Jeffery Berg

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