Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Joseph Fiennes, Elisabeth Shue, Sam Shepard, Justin Chambers, Dennis Hopper
Director: Mehdi Norowzian
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
While incarcerated for 33 years stephen had been writing & receiving letters from a young boy leo. Leo is having problems at home with his moom. Leo is bright but has no support. When a class project has him get a pen-pal ... more »
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Wendy G. (tendy2) from LATROBE, PA
Reviewed on 5/3/2008...
I loved this movie! Very well written!
0 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Michael Butts | Martinsburg, WV USA | 04/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Director Mehdi Norowzian artfully guides LEO into the realms of cinematic genius. Often using windows and rectangular images to frame his actors, he brings us a quiet, penetrating, and artful tale of a young boy and the renaissance of a young man. Presented with a dual storyline concerning a little boy and a man just released from prison, Norowzian weaves the two storylines flawlessly, and patient viewers will be rewarded with how the storylines relate. Joseph Fiennes is marvelous as (...), the murderer who has been corresponding with an 11 year old boy named Leo (played beautifully by newcomer Davis Sweatt). Upon his release he takes a job at Vic's Diner, wherein he meets the born again owner (a superb Sam Shepard), a waitress we don't know much about but come to identify with (Deborah Kara Unger), and the nasty co-owner and customer, the fiendishly wrought Dennis Hopper. Meanwhile, Fiennes is writing a novel centering on the correspondence he has shared with Leo. The parallel storyline features Elisabeth Shue in a dramatically different role---the wife of a college professor who has surrendered her own goals to raise their daughter. Shue is brilliant as she goes from a seemingly sweet mother to an alcoholic, emotionally abusive one. She is told her professor husband (the marvelous Jake Weber) is having an affair, so she retaliates with a dalliance with the hunky painter (a smarmy but effective Justin Chambers). She reconciles with Weber, but a fateful errand for cold cream brings tragic results and the now pregnant Shue blames herself for their tragic end, resulting in her emotional detachment from her newborn baby boy whom she regards as punishment for her infidelity.
LEO is sometimes frustrating in its complexity, but as the movie unfolds, we are given both a poignant and disturbing look at maternal love, filial devotion, and the sad case of how society can dictate how one reacts. It is a very original movie, well done and worth your time."
A Stunning Southern Sleeper
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 03/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Leo is, quite simply, a masterpiece of filmmaking by a first time director. Mehdi Norowzian does a remarkable job, surrounded by technical artists of the highest order and further aided by a cast that could not possibly be bettered.
Norowzian takes elements of what could be a classic, campy southern gothic tale, and gives it a fine "Euro-treatment" - a more noticeable and welcome change over the last decade or so in American independents. (American director, Tag Purvis achieves a similar evocation of a mysterious South in "Red Dirt")
Norowzian takes this screenplay loosely populated with characters from Joyce's "Ulysses" and bends them into a story seamlessly reaching back and forth through decades - racing, hurtling towards its inevitable and beautiful collisionary conclusion.
As Stephen, Joseph Fiennes turns in a performance that can be called nothing less than amazing. Even when silent (which is much of the film) Fiennes' presence is masterful, and cuts to the soul as a man released from a wrongful prison sentence.
Elizabeth Shue is harrowing and wears Mary's vulnerability like a badge of shame as she sinks into hopeless alcoholism and abusive neglect of her son, Leo.
As Leo, watch out for David Sweat, a young actor who inhabits the title role with an intensity and though fiercely intelligent, devoid entirely of preciousness or precosciousness.
Strong performances come also from Sam Shepherd, Dennis Hopper, and Deborah Unger who gives an master class in acting through facial expressions and body language providing myriad insights into what on the surface appears to be a minor role, but whose character inhabits all the qualities of the central characters and who's ultimate crisis serves as the catalyst for the story's denouement. She is, to use an overused word, brilliant.
The entire look and feel of this tale is overwhelming gentle belying its deep intensity. A really wonderful film on many levels."
Lee Armstrong | Winterville, NC United States | 03/22/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Leo" is intense & highly dramatic. Mehdi Norowzian has his feature directorial debut with this small low-budget picture. However, low budget does not mean low on artistry. Norowzian had been nominated for an Oscar in 1999 for his live action short film "Killing Joe" and has had an extensive career in commercials as the DVD extra interview attests. He does an excellent job of weaving the two story lines together as the audience increasingly becomes aware of how they interrelate. 1998 was Joseph Fiennes' banner year with both "Elizabeth" and "Shakespeare In Love" being critical and box-office successes. His portrayal of Martin Luther in 2003's "Luther" was also intense and excellent. As Stephen who is released from prison for murder, we come to know the man who was emotionally abused by his mother and yet who is highly intelligent and has his own sense of morality. We come to see him as both victim and hero, a quite ranging performance. Elizabeth Shue takes on some amazingly complex roles such as the prostitute in "Leaving Las Vegas" that earned her best actress Oscar nomination in 1995. She has also appeared with Kevin Bacon in "The Hollow Man" in 2000 and with Robert DeNiro & Dakota Fanning in this year's "Hide & Seek." As Leo's mother Mary Bloom, we see her as an attractive although emotionally damaged woman who cannot control her own grief without taking it out on her son. As young Leopold, Davis Sweat does a nice job in his film debut. Playwright Sam Shepard does an excellent job as the restaurant owner Vic with his own private demons. His candid interview in the DVD tells us how all of these actors took these roles at scale & were in it for the artistry, not the bucks. He swings a mean baseball bat! Although his appearance is brief, Jake Webber who currently stars in the NBC series "Medium" does a good job as Leopold's father, the college professor Ben. Webber's face is increasingly becoming recognizable although he's previously been in "U571," "The Cell," & "Meet Joe Black." While Mary Bloom believes that her husband has been unfaithful, she takes up with a handyman/painter played by Justin Chambers ("The Wedding Planner") who is as sleazy as he is uncontrolled & dangerous. Dennis Hopper's lone Oscar nomination for acting -- not counting the screenplay of "Easy Rider" -- was in "Hoosiers" in 1986. He dons the role of crazed villain as Horace in this picture. Horace is as unredeemable as Hopper's performance is well executed. Deborah Unger as the waitress Caroline has sass & plays great fear in her backroom confrontation scene with Horace. She has played opposite Denzel Washington in "The Hurricane" and Mel Gibson in "Payback." As Mary Bloom's sister, Mary Stewart Masterson ("Some Kind of Wonderful," "Bed of Roses," "Benny & Joon") does an excellent cameo performance. I found the psychological weaving of the two story lines to be intriguing, well intertwined by Norowzian. Fiennes' performance is the peg around which this story swirls; and his performance is solid sterling. The cinematography is also excellent with some breathtaking shots that frame the story. This is one low-budget flick that is well worth the view. Enjoy!"