Tuesday 20 February 2018

One man's search for a girlfriend

Paul Whitington


(Club, Light House, 94 minutes)

Director: Justin Lerner Stars: Evan Sneider, Shannon Woodward, Amanda Plummer, Jackson Rathbone


The fact that Justin Lerner's low-budget debut feature casts a young man with Down Syndrome as its romantic lead has inevitably garnered it far more attention than it might otherwise have got – or deserved.

That said, it starts very well and for a time threatens to challenge our complacent and patronising attitudes to mental disability, before collapsing somewhat in its final act.

Evan Sneider, in any case, does a fine job of playing Evan Grey, a young man in his 20s with Down Syndrome who lives with his mother and works alongside her in a rundown diner.

Evan and Celeste (the excellent Amanda Plummer) live on the edge of a small working-class town, and clearly struggle to make ends meet.

Celeste's devotion to her son's welfare is touching, but Evan's world collapses one morning when he finds his mother dead.

Left as alone as it is possible to be, Evan goes into a state of shock, and it soon becomes clear he will not be able to cope on his own.

But Evan has a plan: he has long been smitten with Candy (Shannon Woodward), a former high school classmate who lives nearby with her young son.

Candy is a car crash, a terrible mother who juggles men, hasn't two pennies to rub together and lives in constant fear of her vengeful ex-husband Russ (Jackson Rathbone).

She's about to get evicted from her home for non-payment of rent, but Evan has inherited a tidy sum following his mother's death and now plans to be Candy's knight in shining armour.

He gives her $10,000, which allows her to stay in her home, but Candy soon realises that Evan expects something in return.

Lerner could have done with a dig-out from Evan himself: the writer/director made this film for less than $200,000, and shot rough and ready in a string of unglamorous locations.

He makes the point early and often that even though Evan has Down Syndrome, he has the same impulses as any man.

And why shouldn't he, but having set up his mildly interesting premise, Lerner quickly runs out of road and takes Evan's story into wildly implausible territory.

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