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 »he starts writing to stephen who sees it as a chance to help a young boy & perhaps himself. Studio: First Look Home Entertain Release Date: 06/21/2005 Starring: Joseph Fiennes Dennis Hopper Run time: 104 minutes Rating: R« less
Marie L. from SANTA ANA, CA Reviewed on 8/26/2017...
I did enjoy this movie and the story about two people communicating. I won't give away the story here but it is worth watching.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Wendy G. (tendy2) from LATROBE, PA Reviewed on 5/3/2008...
I loved this movie! Very well written!
1 of 2 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!"
James Joyce's Ulysses as a Southern Gothic Tale
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Director Mehdi Norowzian and screenwriters Amir and Massy Tajedin have constructed a tale based loosely on characters from James Joyce's ULYSSES and the result is this rather strange but beguiling film, LEO. Set in the dank and humid South the film runs seemingly parallel stories: Mary Bloom (Elizabeth Shue) is a frustrated academician housewife who has moved to the South with professor husband Ben (Jake Weber) and daughter. When the nosey ladies of the town suggest that Ben has had an affair with a student, Mary is incredulous, but in her altered state of mind has a sexual encounter with a young man who is painting her house. Ben forces Mary to understand that he is innocent, Mary discovers she is pregnant, and Ben and her daughter drive off on a simple errand and are both killed in an auto accident. Flash forward a couple of times and we find Mary drowning her 'guilt' in liquor, having given birth to a son (Leopold - or Leo as he becomes when played by actor Davis Sweat) who she ignores as the misbegotten lovechild from her indiscretion. She has maintained an unhealthy relationship with the house painter, and together they emotionally and physically abuse the child Leo. This `family unit' will have is consequences.
Parallel to this story is the life of a convicted felon Stephen (Joseph Fiennes) who is in a nearby prison and to whom young Leo has written a letter, fulfilling a school assignment. Stephen is released from prison and spends his time - when not employed by the local café where behind the counter misdeeds occur daily between waitress Caroline (Deborah Unger) and rascal Horace (Dennis Hopper) - writing letters to Leo. The relationship between Stephen and Leo takes a surprising twist when, via flashbacks and flash-forwards, the true nature of their identities is clarified. To reveal more would remove the de Maupassant flavor of the ending.
The various ways in which the Joycean tale is twisted and morphed using the names of Leopold and Mary Bloom and Stephen Daedalus is fascinating. The acting is varied: Shue, Fiennes, Sweat, Unger and cameos by Mary Stuart Masterson and Sam Shepard are generally fine. One wonders why Fiennes was cast as a southern drawling emotionally paralytic man until he proves his mettle in the film's conclusion. Other characters including that of Dennis Hopper are one dimensional and cheapen the film. The cinematography of Zubin Mistry captures the Southern ilk, but the overall color is so washed out that the subtleties disappear at times. In all an interesting mood piece that says a lot about individual acceptance of responsibility of personal deeds. There is light in the growth of the characters and that fact keeps this story from being just another depressing Southern Gothic tale. "
J. Martin | Louisville, KY USA | 03/29/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Great little independent type movie. It's a dark dramatic film with several story lines going on at once (but easy to follow). Great acting within a great story. This is one of those little movies that becomes a "great find" that you will remember."