CAPSULE: A family all together for the last time gathers in a hospital where the father has requested to be taken off of life support. Writer and director Andrew Levitas examines death and life. The film has a powerhouse cast, perhaps more than was needed to make the drama work. But the drama is engaging. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
Garrett Hedlund leads the cast as Jonathan Lowenstein who left home to make a career as a singer and to put space between him and his family. Jonathan rubs people the wrong way. He asserts himself by dressing scruffily and insisting on smoking anywhere where it is not allowed. He once had a good relationship with his father, but more recently they do not see eye to eye, especially over Jonathan's secular interpretation of his Jewishness. Jonathan's financier father Robert (Richard Jenkins) is a fighter in business, and for twelve years he has been fighting cancer. But the battle is just about over, and Robert has chosen to be taken off life support. It is his decision to surrender to the disease, but Jonathan, his sister, and his mother have come together to change his mind and also to participate in Robert's last wish. That wish is to participate one last time in the Passover Seder ceremony, a celebration of freedom. Robert is setting himself free to die in peace. In the last few hours before the scheduled life termination the family of four must work out the kinks in their relationships or leave them forever as unfinished business.
The greatest pathos, however, is not from the family. Jonathan meets in a stairwell Meredith (Jessica Barden) a young woman with bone cancer and a shaved head. She is barely into her teens with her life just starting, yet having to prepare herself to leave that life incomplete. She is already filled with the fire of living and is desperate to know about what life could have been if she had not been fated to lose it so soon. We see her reaction to a medical death sentence compared with Robert's.
Andrew Levitas' film LULLABY is a powerful and affecting film about dying and about living. There are no bigger issues. Levitas is not just a filmmaker. He is renown as a painter, a sculptor, a writer, and a photographer. For his film he got a real string of good actors including Garrett Hedlund of INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, Richard Jenkins of THE VISITOR, Amy Adams of AMERICAN HUSTLE, Jessica Brown Findlay of "Downton Abbey", Anne Archer of FATAL ATTRACTION, Terrence Howard of IRON MAN, and Jennifer Hudson of DREAMGIRLS. I question the importance of Amy Adams, whose story seems very tangential to the central story.
The viewer should be prepared for a moving experience that never feels like it is trying for tears. The story reaches for the real issues of life and it never offers pat answers to those issues. I rate LULLABY a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2210781/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/lullaby_2013/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2014 Mark R. Leeper