I attended the World Premiere of The Bondage at the 2006 SXSW Film Festival. This is a powerful film which defies categorization. But more than just about any other movie I've seen this year, it's the power of the performances that makes it a must-see. So I thought I'd forgo the typical review and simply honor the wonderful actors in this film.

The first feature from writer/director Eric Allen Bell, The Bondage boasts a brilliant ensemble cast featuring Michael Angarano (Charlie Edwards), Mae Whitman (Angelica), Illeana Douglas (Elaine Edwards), Griffin Dunne (Dr. Simon), Eric Lange (Bob Edwards), and Evan Ellingson (Mark Edwards). Griffin Dunne: As the psychiatrist assigned to counsel Charlie, Mr. Dunne almost steals the show. Despite its heavy subjects, the film has many lighthearted moments, and some of the biggest laughs come in these scenes. This is one brilliant comic actor, and must have been a riot to work with. I thought of Eugene Levy at his best. Every word, every nuance in the exchanges between Dunne and Angarano in these scenes is priceless.

Evan Ellingson
: Plays Charlie's younger but taller brother Mark. He is slightly more mischievous than Charlie. Is he more the instigator here or just a willing participant? You'll just have to see for yourself. I did envy the closeness of the two boys' relationship, though. They seem more friends than brothers and I certainly didn't experience that in my own life, which made it that much more poignant.

Eric Lange: Dear old Dad. Lange is appropriately scary as the father who can turn moods on a dime. Scenes shown in flashback illustrate some of the events in Charlie's life which lead up to his fateful acting out and subsequent incarceration. I really hated this guy, and that is testament to Lange's talent. He was my father, too. I suspect you'll despise him as much as I did. Or will you feel sorry for him?

Mae Whitman
: The adorable and aptly named Angelica, Charlie's newly acquired friend in the latter stages of his ordeal. Whitman enters the film like a light in the darkness, and has an on screen chemistry with Angarano which is apparent in all their scenes together. As the saying goes, "you'll laugh, you'll cry" -- Whitman brought me to tears in her portrayal of perhaps the one person who understands Charlie, something he has never known.

Illeana Douglas: Charlie's Mom. Everymom. I cannot say enough about the impact of her performance. Every moment she appears on screen is filled with emotion and tension. Douglas is absolutely breathtaking in her portrayal of the seemingly helpless, hapless parent struggling to gain control of her out-of-control child. And who can relate to that? Maybe every mother in America? In the world? She tries everything to repair the broken bond she once had with Charlie. Or was it ever really a bond in the first place? A heartbreaking performance.

Michael Angarano
: Plays Charlie Douglas, the protagonist. The Bondage is his story, based on the true life events of writer/director Eric Allen Bell. First off, it must be said that Angarano is arguably the most talented teenage actor in America, if not the most prolific. With 4 - 6 films a year under his belt, as well as numerous television appearances, one would think that we might have seen him tackle a role like this before. But we really haven't. This is not Will Stronghold, the lovable would-be superhero of Sky High, or "Baby Sid," the Lords of Dogtown skateboarder who isn't quite up to snuff with the other guys but is allowed to tag along because we feel sorry for him. This is a side of Angarano we haven't known -- angry, sad, and frightening.

Charlie has known little but disappointment in life, from the fractured relationship with his father, to the strangely disconnected bond with his mother, to the little brother who seems to get away with everything -- it's all there. And it all adds up to rage, which leads to trouble, which plants poor Charlie in Juvenile Hall. But now he really does have some life-altering decisions to make. And he now needs to reach out and enlist the help of others to save himself -- something he has never had to do. Along the way, he is tamed by the system, but not whipped into submission. He still has the cojones to fight back, and he does it with every fiber of his being.

This is a startling performance which should cause moviegoers to sit up and take notice. To call it chilling doesn't do it justice. I literally had shivers up my spine in scene after scene after scene. Angarano is riveting, captivating, endearing, and always sympathetic. Anyone who doesn't identify with Charlie's sense of loss and despair has no heart. We have all been in bondage in our own way, and Charlie's attempts to break free of his own bondage will resonate with the viewer long after leaving the theater. This is a performance that ranks among the best I've ever seen from someone so young. I'm not one for hyperbole but I was absolutely blown away by Angarano's performance and that alone is worth the price of admission many times over. This film will leave you thinking, and it is largely due to the brilliant subtleties and incredible range of Michael Angarano.


Author

Larry Richman

Larry Richman

For 20 years I was a professional in the entertainment industry, from commercial broadcast radio in America's fourth largest market to band management to record production. But my passion is independent film, and I spend much of the year traveling to film festivals to see indies and meet the actors, directors, and others responsible for creating them. I'm a writer, photographer, and videographer, currently serving as Senior Vice President for Media & Technology and Public Relations at PROnetworks as well as Editor at Larry411.com

Comments (5)

  • Calaim Reply

    My spring break coincides with the SXSW festival in Austin, TX, and i want to go, but when i look up the website, the only mention of anything resembling tickets are "passes" for the music and/or film festivals.

    December 10, 2009 at 3:50 am
  • ginline Reply

    i totally missed the southwest festival as well as bondage, good to read ur review.
    I should admit by reading ur review i am feeling as i am living the movie.

    December 30, 2009 at 3:26 pm
  • Plummy Reply

    Literally its a spine chilling movie,it is made from the heart and looks quite promising to me. U have a gifted art to write reviews. keep going.

    December 30, 2009 at 8:49 pm
  • whitney Reply

    Just looking at the cast of the movie "Bondage" you can predict that it is really a big hit movie.

    December 31, 2009 at 12:34 am
  • learation Reply

    the movie is sad and frightening. i appreciate ur effort in putting the review. and ur rating is perfect.

    January 07, 2010 at 7:18 am

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