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USA 2003
Directed by
Peter Hedges
80 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

Pieces Of April

April Burns (Katie Holmes) lives in New York’s seedier Lower East Side with boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke). She is estranged from her family, especially her mother Joy (Patricia Clarkson) who is dying of cancer. Aware that this may be the last Thanksgiving the family can spend together, April decides to play hostess and roast a turkey. The Burns family head off on the six hour drive, with father Jim (Oliver Platt) determined to make it a good time, despite Joy, daughter Beth (Alison Pill), son Timmy (John Gallagher Jnr) and Grandma Dottie (Alice Drummond) dwelling only on April’s shortcomings. As the meeting of two parts of the dysfunctional family draws closer, all sorts of obstacles, physical and emotional, must be overcome.

Pieces of April takes small, unassuming situations and turns them into something which speaks to us all.  The delicate affection with which Hedges treats his characters is totally heart-warming, without venturing into schmaltz territory.and the mixture of humour and deeper emotions is a major strength of the film.Thus, whilst the film;s  portrayal of different ethnic groups in April’s apartment building provides a lot of laughs as well as poignancy, ultimately it is the inspiring and life-affirming message of the need we all have for each other which predominates.

Whilst this is a really cheaply-made film (digitally shot on a miniscule budget) the calibre of the acting is first class. Katie Holmes brings a wonderful volatility to the seemingly tough April, whose vulnerability cannot be hidden. As Joy, Patricia Clarkson creates a fine balance between comedy and tragedy. Oliver Platt is endearing as the good-natured Jim, whose love and devotion to his family keeps the whole thing together. Derek Luke as Bobby was especially interesting as a major digression from and challenge to the black stereotype so often portrayed in mainstream New York-based films. And as the characters of Grandma, Beth and Timmy are also engaging, there is never a moment in this film which drags.




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