The haunting truths emerging from this movie will reach way passed bedtime resolution. Based upon an actual case, they are undeniable as well. To bring extreme child abuse into the presence and view of other children, invite them into participation, even allowing them to enlist more children from outside an immediate home, to participate, is very well something none of us want to regard as even thinkable. The questions raised, that such dark sides lie within so many at hand…waiting only to be aroused by psychotic appeal (in this case that a child “needed to be punished”) should make us all stand back and see the standards upon which we base character and morals might just be far more fragile than realized.
This reviewer cannot treat such a presentation with the regard “entertainment” permits. Judged on that basis the film would be the worst kind of exploitation. But reflecting truths, even harsh ones, it is a movie that should, even must, be made. The same is said for its view.
One of the first questions to ask is to question this double standard we socially allow where child actors can be used but we stop at allowing child audiences?!
The second, or so, question, is, the myth of stolen childhood. In protecting false notions that we can somehow filter, distill or limit the experiences to which our children are exposed, do we leave far too much to happenstance, and increase the opportunities they might become unwitting accomplices in something like what this movie portrays?
The performance to watch is that of Catherine Keener’s portrayal of, Gertrude Baniszewski, one that she serves chillingly convincingly. Her interpretation and delivery succeeds at an astounding level of demand and only first-rate acting allows that.
The scene shifts and breaks in continuity to add a ghostly perspective to the telling of this story are carried well by the talented performance of Ellen Page as, Sylvia Likens. Although sometimes a bit confusing, they add an interesting dimension by addressing the concerns every viewer must feel as they watch, why isn’t something being done?!!
Recently, near where this reviewer lives, a woman had criminal charges removed, the system electing her to psychiatric care, for chopping off the arms of her infant. Like with the decline of humanity in these children, do such examples foster their own false sense of permission to conceive and do such monstrous acts?
Yes, the movie, regardless of the child protection agencies we have today (and that didn’t exist at the time of its setting,) is still relevant.
If one does makes exceptions to permit young children to venture beyond the usual fare we allow them, this might be one such justifiable exception.