Ed Solomon directed this intriguing and thoughtful 2003 crime drama starring Billy Bob Thornton as a man searching for redemption. He plays Manual Jordan, a criminal who has already done over twenty years in prison for the murder of a child during a robbery, when he himself was only a youth. It is a killing which has haunted him ever since, being an over reaction, born out of terror and stress.
One day, he suddenly finds that the parole board has decided that his time in jail is over and without warning, he is catapulted from the relative safety of his imprisonment into a world hat is now completely alien to him. Mow middle aged and wild looking, he tries to find the kid’s sister, his aim to help her as much as he can to atone for the murder of her brother. His only guide in this semi spiritual quest is the ghost of the child himself. However, Adele, the sister is not ready to meet the man who murdered her brother and Manual’s only hope is in the kindness of a priest.
Thorntonbrings Manual an incredible sense of reality, you can really believe in the character and he becomes sympathetic, even though he is playing a child murderer. Holly Hunter as Adele is also excellent, brushing off his well meant advances as she has her own world to cope with and cannot be bothered with this wild haired middle aged stranger. And of course, Morgan Freeman also puts in a noteworthy performance as the no nonsense priest who takes Manual in and gives him some structure to his chaotic life. also standing out is Kirsten Dunst playing a wayward teen who finds herself attracted to the ex con.
This movie is very much a character piece and all of the cast bring a class to the movie, interpreting an excellent and often very witty but always real script. Solomon started put as a scriptwriter and this shows in his directorial debut, he directs with sensitivity and skill and allows all of the cast plenty of screen time to do their work. There’s nothing flashy about his direction, it is confident and well paced. Well worth a watch.