Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Repentance [2014]

MPAA (R)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

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Repentance [2014] (directed by Philippe Caland, screenplay by Shintaro Shimosawa, based on the film The Guru and the Gypsy [2014] by Philippe Caland) is about, well, ... Repentance.  What does it mean to Repent?

The film begins at night somewhere in the back-country of Louisiana with two young 20-something brothers, African American, Tommy and Ben Carter (played by Anthony Mackie and Mike Epps respectively), intoxicated, driving recklessly, indeed with abandon, down some country road, Tommy at the wheel, Ben riding "shot-gun."  Out of the darkness, an elderly African American woman steps onto the road.  Tommy can't do much other than hit her with their own car crashing then into a tree.  They're both knocked-out.

Older brother Ben wakes up first, attempts to wake Tommy up...  The next scene fast forwards to 4 years later.

Four years later, we're reintroduced to Tommy, who turns out to be (or have become) a successful spiritual writer.  It seems that both he and his wife Maggie (played by Sanaa Lathan) are very much into the power of various meditative and relaxation therapies.  Together they run a Yoga studio in New Orleans with Tommy writing about the spirituality of it all:  with "coming to peace" with who one is and with one's world. 

What happened to Ben?  We don't really know at first but later find out that he had spent some time in jail.  For the auto accident?  We're not sure.  Besides he hadn't been driving.  And what of Tommy?  HE HAD BEEN DRIVING.  What happened to him?  Why was he writing books about RELAXATION THERAPY??

Well, one day at a book signing, he meets an unusual fan, an older African American man named Angel Sanchez (played magnificently by Forest Whitaker).  He's still kinda from the countryside, which in Louisiana means the Bayou (swamps).  He comes across as being not particularly educated, but he's read all of Tommy's books.  And we learn that he's already had his little girl Francesca (played by Ariana Neal) participate in Tommy and Maggie's "children's yoga classes."  Why?  It's kinda strange.  Country bumpkin Angel lives kinda far from the center of New Orleans and doesn't seem like someone one would expect to be interested in Eastern philosophy or yoga.  But he _does_ seem tormented, like someone who has been desperate to find peace.  So ... perhaps for THAT reason, Angel stumbled upon Tommy's books and became an avid fan. 

Okay, Angel Sanchez asks Tommy for some personal counseling sessions.  Tommy tries to explain to him that he doesn't do that much any more, perhaps wondering if Angel would even have the money for that.  But Angel insists that he needs the help and that despite his somewhat rough looks and demeanor, as a former construction contractor, he would have the money to pay for such counseling.  Feeling compassion for the man (and perhaps not wanting to seem prejudicial, if not in terms of race then in terms of class) Tommy takes on Angel as a client.

But why was Angel so tormented?  Well ... that's the rest of the film ;-).

And by the end of it, the film poses some _very good questions_ about what is really required to "find peace with oneself and with one's world."

Excellent film!

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