Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 12/10/05 19:25:29

"Thoroughly unnerving."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

William Keane has problems. At first we think, well, sure, of course - his seven-year-old daughter is missing, which is enough to set anybody on edge. But his daughter's been missing for months, and as he searches the bus station where she vanished, he seems to lose track of things. Sometimes he seems to be talking about the disappearance like it happened months ago, other times like it just happens. He impulsively jumps on a bus out of town when he thinks that that is the key to finding her, and creates a disturbance to get off when his thinking shifts.

That's our first look at Keane's title character, and he never gets less disturbing. We soon learn that he's receiving disability checks and spending chunks of them on drugs and booze. He seems to be pulling himself together, and then Lynn and Kira Bedick enter his life. The question is, will this mother and her seven-year-old girl stabilize William, or send him off the deep end?

Keane is played by Damian Lewis, who gives a frighteningly naturalistic performance. There's no excess theatricality to his technique, despite the fact that he's playing a character who may be completely off his nut. He perfectly replicates the guy a couple seats away on the bus, chattering to himself, not immediately threatening, but not someone you want to get close to. Even in his more friendly, lucid moments, Lewis makes Keane a man on edge; you can practically hear him ticking. The question, of course, is whether that ticking is counting down to an explosion, a collapse, or something else.

Amy Ryan is great as Lynn Bendik, fragile and angry in her own way. She's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and in some ways doesn't seem to be holding it together even as well as William. It's a very real performance, cringe-worthy at times, but nothing ever rings false. Just as good is young Abigail Breslin, perfectly guileless as Kira. There's nothing over-precious about her.

Which, from what I gather, is sort of writer/director Lodge Kerrigan's stock in trade. This is his third film, and like his first (Clean, Shaven), it deals with disturbed and desperate people without romanticizing or flinching. It makes for an uncomfortable watch, but also a spectacle that it's difficult to look away from. Things can go terribly wrong, especially once we start to think that William is starting to get his crap together, even though his growing calmness always seems to come hand in hand with questions about his grip on reality.

Unnerving to watch, but very satisfying.

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