Hollow Reed (1996) Poster

(1996)

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9/10
Emotionally charged drama with strong performances
bandw20 February 2006
The subject of child abuse is not a pleasant one and often the made-for-TV dramas dealing with this subject present a one-dimensional view. But this movie gets very deeply into the complex dynamics of a such a case. The story revolves around ten-year-old Oliver (Sam Bould) who lives with his divorced mother Hannah (Joely Richardson) and her boyfriend Frank (Jason Flemyng). The boy loves his mother as well as his father Martyn (Martin Donoval) who precipitated the divorce in order to live with his male partner Tom (Ian Hart).

The movie starts with Oliver having run to his father's house with a bloodied face. Oliver passes it off as his having been in a fight. Martyn is a medical doctor and takes Oliver to the hospital and finds out that his physical wounds in this instance are not threatening. But sometime later when Oliver shows up with broken bones in his wrist, that he tries to blame on having been caused by slamming a car door on it, Martyn checks it out and determines that the injury is not consistent with Oliver's story and he initiates court proceedings to get custody of the child. Frank and Hannah are very much in love and Hannah cannot believe that Frank is to blame for Oliver's injuries and she feels that Martyn is just trying a power play to get custody of Oliver and irritate her.

This is a pretty straightforward setup, but it is here where the movie becomes very involving. We come to understand why Oliver tries to hide the truth and stay with his mother, even though he wants to be with his father. We get enough insight into Frank to understand why he behaves as he does and, even though we cannot forgive his actions, we see that he is not a total monster and we can even have some sympathy for him.

And then there is the whole issue of whether homosexual men should be allowed to have custody of a child, and that is explored in some depth. Martyn and Tom have the most natural homosexual relationship that I have seen in film, but the relationship is not idealized. There are visits by social workers and a court hearing that is viciously brutal, especially the questioning of Martyn about intimate details of his relationship with Tom.

One reason that this story is so affecting is the superb acting by all concerned, particularly by the young Bould. He is totally believable in conveying the traumas he experiences and you suffer with him.

The saddest thing about the situation these people find themselves in is that none of them is really a bad person, but they are drawn into circumstances that are psychologically damaging to all of them, particularly the boy.

This movie successfully treats many themes: child abuse, the far-reaching and long-term effects of divorce, sexual discrimination, society's duty to children, and the suitability of gays as parents.

At the end there is no nice neat resolution in this honest and realistic film.
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9/10
TOUCHING STORY/SOLID SCRIPT
Mitch-387 January 2002
Potent and moving drama, finely performed and well told. The screenplay is solid, and flows realistically, without melodramatic histrionics or overt manipulation of the viewer.

The difficult and horrendous subject of child abuse, is intelligently handled, and still evokes a stunning portrayal. Angela Pope directs the film and its characters through many subjects that could involve several films, let alone one. The screenplay is sharp, the actors carry out great performances. Rarely, in a movie, have gay characters been shown to be so human, not a pasted cliche.

Don't miss this fine motion picture. Highly recommended.
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8/10
Excellently Crafted Drama
haridam015 November 2006
The script for "Hollow Red" is finely written, with fully dimensional characters, believable situations, and sharp plot twists.

The acting is faultless, with the entire cast bringing poignant character realizations to their work.

The direction, editing, and scoring all contribute to a moving drama. One is absorbed from beginning to end, and experiences a cathartic feeling at the finale.

The only aspect which may date this film a bit is the British courtroom attitude toward the homosexual lifestyle. In that respect, it roots itself in the late '90s. However, even that element is historically honest and truthful.

A fine film from English contemporary cinema.
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10/10
Beautiful movie
IIPP16 June 1999
This movie was perfect in just about every way. The cinematography, acting, you name it. I give it a 10/10 and highly recommend it. However, I did see some slight problems - Tom's (the father's live-in boyfriend) character was never really developed much, and, other than one, eh, 'uninhibited' scene of gay love, there was really not much feeling of love between the two. However, I suppose that the relationship was done as well as could be expected, though. All in all, it was a great movie, and it's 'pros' far outweigh it's 'cons'. It has achieved the status of 'near perfection' in my mind, which only one other movie had done before this.
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10/10
Hollow Reed - a comment - anyone who has not seen it may not want to read this
Melrosemiss19 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Profoundly sensitive topic handled in a superb manner. I could feel the father's anguish and the child's and feel that while the movie may make some uncomfortable, it is a topic that is not going to go away and perhaps through sensitive coverage such as this, there will be more understanding and tolerance. I was held spellbound from the very beginning and as a mother myself, wonder why the child's mother was not aware something was wrong with him. It was painfully obvious to me as an observer, in just watching Oliver, that something was not right. Did she honestly not know, and then I would have to consider how close she truly was to her son, or did she know and ignore, which is so much worse. Can a quest for happiness, or fulfillment, even make us blind to our obligations to our children? I sincerely hope not. I am glad it ended as it did, but would like to have seen a little further into the future.
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10/10
An important perspective on gay parenthood
dj-585 July 1999
In addition to its excellent cinematic qualities (including an intelligent and powerful script), this heartbreaking film's message about the depth of a gay father's love for his child is a moving and important statement.
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The Message Was Clear.
lovejam19 May 2004
Oliver Wyatt [Sam Bould], who's at the centre of this drama, felt he would bring on more drama and feel blamed, coupled with the abuse he put up with if he expressed his feelings about it. Martyn Wyatt [Martin Donovan], who's the ex-husband and father to Oliver, battled discrimination from his wife and the court system to save his son. Tom Dixon [Ian Hart], Martyn's boyfriend, who stood by helplessly yet made the occassional attempt, ended up even more frustrated. Hannah Wyatt [Joely Richardson], who was torn between a possible failed relationship with her current boyfriend and the welfare of her son. Frank Donally [Jason Flemyng], the one who's oblivious to his treatment of the boy and trapped wrestling his own demons. All well-played roles by fine actors.
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10/10
Great performances
pyotr-330 July 1999
This film provides some of the best performances and best casting of any film I have ever seen. The child, Oliver, is compelling in a way I have never seen before, and the major roles are exquisitely performed by all. The story will keep you on edge, and the twists and turns of the plot are totally enthralling and surprising. Film-making at its very best. The climax of the film is one of the best scenes I have ever seen in any movie. Superb.
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7/10
Missed Seeing This the First Time Around
B2418 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Ordinarily I might have rated this film a bit higher, but on a recent second viewing I overcame my annoyance with the dad's floppy hairdo and concentrated on more important aspects of the drama. In doing so, it became apparent to me that -- as others have pointed out -- an element of fullness in the main characters is frequently absent.

That is especially true of the mother's character. I find no fault with the acting, but with the writing. No sensitive mother I know of would ever tolerate seeing her child harmed physically, even if it did mean giving up the illusion of total fulfillment as a wife. The only such instances of which I am aware that even come close are those involving equal physical abuse of both mother and child, a condition that allows no sympathy or second-guessing at all for the paternal abuser.

Similarly, I find the otherwise brave but confused responses (or non-responses) of the child somewhat contrived. Most children I know of that approximate age would be far more demonstrative or would act out their frustrations in such a way as to provoke a quicker catharsis. Those who do not will withdraw completely and become intensely compliant so as not to incite even greater violence, which is an even worse reaction because as they grow older it becomes something that warps terribly their adult perceptions of who they are and the world around them.

These critical elements aside, I applaud the film for its obvious effort to address what are in fact very frequent and common marital issues in an adult manner. Most movies of this kind are quite simplistic, working out a plot in which there are good guys and bad guys as defined early on. This one rises well above that level.
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6/10
Well done but seems dated
yespat18 May 2010
Everyone did a great job and I'm sure that when it came out, it was very timely. It might even still be timely in the Bible belt or in Muslim countries. But in today's America, it seems dated as the main focus of the film was about whether or not gays should have custody of their children.

I suppose if plot is not what you're interested in, you could get lost in the performances as they were all perfect, particularly that little boy. He was really great. I went to see what else he was in on IMDb and was surprised to see that he has not had much of a career. Too bad. He was fabulous.

So, see it for historical reasons or for the performances but I don't think it's anything one should rush out to see, if you have not already seen it.
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A very moving film
Red7Eric15 October 1998
When I rented this movie with friends, I expected it to be a trite melodrama of the "TV-movie of the week" variety. But it has two things going for it that elevate the film above soap opera.

The first is the performance of young Sam Bould as the abused child. One of the best performances from a young actor I have ever seen, without a trace of cutesiness, mugging, or self-consciousness.

The second is the character of Hannah. Here is a deeply flawed woman who willingly puts her own son through hell, and yet so skillfully written and played by Joely Richardson, I sympathized with her throughout. This is an extraordinary character, and I was really impressed by the way she was handled.

The one major flaw of this film is that the two gay men are wonderful parents, and the straight couple are such awful parents...the film is so pro-gay it verges on being anti-straight. But, as stated above, Joely Richardson's performance keeps you from making any easy judgments about Hannah. She saves the film from treacly melodrama.
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10/10
Great performances
pyotr-330 July 1999
This film provides some of the best performances and best casting of any film I have ever seen. The child, Oliver, is compelling in a way I have never seen before, and the major roles are exquisitely performed by all. The story will keep you on edge, and the twists and turns of the plot are totally enthralling and surprising. Film-making at its very best. The climax of the film is one of the best scenes I have ever seen in any movie. Superb.
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8/10
A Poignant Drama
harry-7621 April 1999
Angela Pope's "Hollow Reed" is a powerfully and sensitively enacted consideration of a complex marital relationship involving two couples and a child. There is an unusual number of twists and levels to the plot, and they are viewed from both a humane and legal perspective. A gifted cast portrays these roles with understanding and compassion. A few contrived touches occur in the script, which weaken its total excellence; however, the over all presentation is very engrossing and moving.
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