Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors [2013]

MPAA (PG-13)  RE.com (3 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
ChicagoTribune / Variety (R. Scheib) review
RE.com (M. Zoller-Seitz) review
AVClub (D. Ehrlich) review

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors [2013] (directed by Sam Fleischner, story by and screenplay cowritten by Rose Lichter Marck along with Micah Bloomberg) is a well-crafted, personalist drama about a Hispanic family living in New York City (Rockaway Beach) with a 13-year-old son with autism spectrum disorder.  The film played recently in Chicago at Facets Multimedia.

Mom, Mariana (played by Andrea Suarez Paz), works as a housekeeper.  Dad, Ricardo, Sr (played by Tenoch Huerta), generally works upstate in construction.  It appears that one or both are undocumented.  Together, they have a 15 year old daughter Carla (played by Azul Zorrilla) and Ricky, Jr (played by Jesus Sanchez-Velez) who has autism.

Since dad is rarely at home, working somewhere "upstate" (which in New York's conception could mean anywhere from "just north of the City in Westchester County" up the entire Hudson / Mohawk River valleys to the shores of Lakes Eire / Ontario and to the Canadian border), and mom works pretty much from sunrise-to-sunset if closer then still "away," 15-year-old Carla is generally left to look after (keep track of) 13-year-old (why's your brother so weird?) Ricky to inevitable (and understandable) teenage friction.  After all, she has friends, dreams of "having a life" and yet she's largely responsible for her 13 year old brother who's just borderline to not require a completely special school, but still causes chronic irritating frustrations at both home and at school.

So perhaps inevitably, one afternoon, Carla just rolls-eyes and says "whatever..." when Ricky (once again ...) doesn't seem to want to follow directions (from his sister ...) and walk home with her and her friends after school ... and the rest of the movie follows ...

Ricky, of course, doesn't come home.   Where did he go?  Well, he's 13, "in his own world," but it's not a completely unfunctioning world.  He gets distracted, or more to the point, fixated on things.  Some guy walked by with a random but perhaps somewhat striking emblem on the back of his jacket and Ricky, fixating on the emblem, decides to follow him.  The guy goes to the subway station and Ricky follows him there.  When the guy enters to pay his fare to get past the turn-styles and head then to the trains, Ricky REACHES INTO A POCKET IN HIS OWN BACKPACK, gets out the required change, pays his own fare and follows him down to the platform.

Then, in the midst of all the people, of course, he loses the guy.  BUT now he's in a subway station WITH ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE and ALL KINDS OF RANDOM THINGS TO TURN ONE'S ATTENTION TO.  AND so Ricky gets on a random subway train, heading off in a random direction, following something new that attracted him, until he forgot about it again, and found something else to focus on ...  AND ALL THE WHILE, TO ANYONE TRAVELING THE SUBWAY BESIDE HIM, he's just another random, perhaps after a while, somewhat tired, 13-year-old traveling _somewhere_ on the train.

So Ricky doesn't come home.  What to do?  Mom goes searching for him, first in the neighborhood.  She goes to the beach.  He used to like the beach, the waves, the sounds, the occasional seagull, etc.  He wasn't there.  She walks down the street, checking various stores in the neighborhood, stores that he'd previously like (there's a corner shoe-store that he had previously liked for all the random colored sneakers ...).  He's not there.  She spends the night looking for him, can't find him.

The next day, she realizes that she has to call the police.  She doesn't particularly want to, presumably because either she or her husband were illegal.  It doesn't matter really because the police tell her that they won't do anything for the FIRST SEVENTY TWO HOURS because the kid could just be going to his father or perhaps to some other relative.  They usually turn up, after SEVENTY TWO HOURS (three days (!)) they'd truly be missing.

Seventy two hours pass ... then Hurricane Sandy starts to roll in ... What happened?

Excellent story and one that could happen TO ANY FAMILY with a special needs child in a big city.

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