Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Torn

Sharply observant, non-exploitative study of how modern terrorism affects ordinary lives is intelligent and moving.

Oct 17, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1387768-Torn_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

A terrorist bomb explodes in a mall in which ten people are killed, followed by a roundup of the usual suspects. Under suspicion are two boys who, although killed in the blast, had behavior which was suspicious enough to single them out as possible perpetrators. The police intensely question their mothers—hard-working single parent Lea (Dendrie Taylor) and Muslim real estate agent Maryam (Mahnoor Baloch), an emigré from Pakistan—who are both mystified and horrified as the dark secret lives of their sons are slowly revealed to them. Eddie (Jordan Parrott), Lea's boy, was a victim of bullying, which made him threaten his tormentors, while Walter (Sagar Parekh) suffered discrimination for being Pakistani and was also, unbeknownst to Maryam, immersing himself in Islamic studies.

From a terse, wonderfully observant and unsentimental screenplay by Michael Richter, director Jeremiah Birnbaum has made a refreshingly low-key, unhysterical account of a modern tragedy and the very specific ways it affects people, long after horrific incidents happen. The lack of melodrama or sensationalism in the presentation really helps you get under the characters' skins, while realizing fully the innate mystery germane to every human being. Torn is the kind of story which could happen anywhere and, terrifyingly, seems to be happening more and more, and the filmmakers' big achievement here is the way they deal with it, never once resorting to the mawkishness or ugly rabble-rousing hype which all too often accompanies this subject. Richter tells the tale with admirable economy—the film runs 80 minutes—as well as an unstressed but devastating emotional authenticity. He could have ended his film with the question of the boys' culpability unanswered and that ambiguity would have been sufficient, but instead he reveals the truth, and the revelation is breathtakingly poignant.

Richter admirably switches the usual tables on the women's economic status: far from being a menial immigrant, Maryam is a successful white-collar professional, while Lea toils as a factory janitor. They both suffer ostracism in the workplace and elsewhere as news of their sons' possible involvement spills. Their different but strangely parallel dramatic arcs are beautifully rendered by the weather-beaten Taylor and the lovely, composed (until she cracks) Baloch, as is their burgeoning, difficult friendship. Faran Tahir has a marvelous dignity and strength as Maryam's husband, who was mistakenly arrested post-9/11; his monologue about preferring a life of "filthy biryani" back in Pakistan to the contempt he endures in this "land of the free" is searing. John Heard lends some crusty authority as a cop, although Sharon Washington is a tad too vehement as an FBI agent bent on cracking the case.



Film Review: Torn

Sharply observant, non-exploitative study of how modern terrorism affects ordinary lives is intelligent and moving.

Oct 17, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1387768-Torn_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

A terrorist bomb explodes in a mall in which ten people are killed, followed by a roundup of the usual suspects. Under suspicion are two boys who, although killed in the blast, had behavior which was suspicious enough to single them out as possible perpetrators. The police intensely question their mothers—hard-working single parent Lea (Dendrie Taylor) and Muslim real estate agent Maryam (Mahnoor Baloch), an emigré from Pakistan—who are both mystified and horrified as the dark secret lives of their sons are slowly revealed to them. Eddie (Jordan Parrott), Lea's boy, was a victim of bullying, which made him threaten his tormentors, while Walter (Sagar Parekh) suffered discrimination for being Pakistani and was also, unbeknownst to Maryam, immersing himself in Islamic studies.

From a terse, wonderfully observant and unsentimental screenplay by Michael Richter, director Jeremiah Birnbaum has made a refreshingly low-key, unhysterical account of a modern tragedy and the very specific ways it affects people, long after horrific incidents happen. The lack of melodrama or sensationalism in the presentation really helps you get under the characters' skins, while realizing fully the innate mystery germane to every human being. Torn is the kind of story which could happen anywhere and, terrifyingly, seems to be happening more and more, and the filmmakers' big achievement here is the way they deal with it, never once resorting to the mawkishness or ugly rabble-rousing hype which all too often accompanies this subject. Richter tells the tale with admirable economy—the film runs 80 minutes—as well as an unstressed but devastating emotional authenticity. He could have ended his film with the question of the boys' culpability unanswered and that ambiguity would have been sufficient, but instead he reveals the truth, and the revelation is breathtakingly poignant.

Richter admirably switches the usual tables on the women's economic status: far from being a menial immigrant, Maryam is a successful white-collar professional, while Lea toils as a factory janitor. They both suffer ostracism in the workplace and elsewhere as news of their sons' possible involvement spills. Their different but strangely parallel dramatic arcs are beautifully rendered by the weather-beaten Taylor and the lovely, composed (until she cracks) Baloch, as is their burgeoning, difficult friendship. Faran Tahir has a marvelous dignity and strength as Maryam's husband, who was mistakenly arrested post-9/11; his monologue about preferring a life of "filthy biryani" back in Pakistan to the contempt he endures in this "land of the free" is searing. John Heard lends some crusty authority as a cop, although Sharon Washington is a tad too vehement as an FBI agent bent on cracking the case.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

May in the Summer
Film Review: May in the Summer

Jordanian brides, their sisters, difficult moms and diffident men would seem to have a lot in common with Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston, Katherine Heigl and other WASP princesses with their own predictable white-gown blues in countless rom-coms. More »

To be Takei
Film Review: To Be Takei

The kaleidoscopic life of the Enterprise's chauffeur—an Asian and gay showbiz pioneer—is explored in this entertaining but diffuse documentary. More »

K2: Siren of the Himalayas
Film Review: K2: Siren of the Himalayas

Mountaineering documentary follows an expedition to K2 in the Himalayas. More »

The Possession of Michael King
Film Review: The Possession of Michael King

All unhappy families may be unhappy in their own way, but movies about possession/exorcism tend to a numbing sameness. That said, The Possession of Michael King, yet another "found footage" frightener, whips up some creepy moments and features a strong performance by Shane Johnson as the atheist who makes the mistake of daring the Devil to prove he's not just another bogeyman. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Film Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Neither significantly better nor worse than its predecessor, the belated Sin City sequel is more of a repeat, rather than a continuation, of the original. More »

If I Stay
Film Review: If I Stay

Delivers as promised. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here