"Between the Line of Life and Death"
Directed by George Clooney
Written by Curtis Hanson and George Clooney
Brandon Mychal Smith as Terrence Washington
Thandie Newton as Jillian Washington
Jamie Campbell Bower as Derek Olsen
Laura Linney as Ms. Lund
George Clooney as Detective Tim Mathews
Rob Brown as Marshall Washington
Tagline: "Don't Think on Past, Don't Dwell on Sin, When a Better Life Lays Ahead"
Synopsis: I haven't had much of a life. Being raised in East St. Louis, you can expect to have one. It started when I was two, maybe two and a half when my father walked out on my mother Jillian (Newton). He first got her pregnant when they were sixteen with my older brother Marshall (Brown). My mother dropped out of high school prematurely so she could take care of him. Marshall was always getting into trouble growing up. On his eighteenth birthday, he had himself a grand ol' time by stealing a nice Mini Cooper on the West Side. The police caught him the next day and he was sentenced to ten years. Apparently, he did more than just steal a car. I visit him every now and then, but he doesn't seem to care whenever I do visit.
I walk outside everyday and see nothing but pain and suffering. It makes me so upset to hear about the different gang violence when I go to school everyday. My English teacher, Ms. Lund (Linney), always tells me I'm better than that. I know she's right because, unlike them, I want to do something with my life, but the problem is I need money for college. I've weighed my options, but I figure other people get rich off selling drugs so why can't I. I'll use it for a good reason. I started selling about a month ago and I've made some pretty nice cash. My biggest customer is this rich white kid Derek (Bower) from Northwest. He's one of those kids who always wanted to be cool and kept hearing the popular kids talk about doing drugs so he felt he should try it. He's been addicted ever since I first sold to him. I see him probably once every three days and he is always good on payment. I hope for his sake it stays that way. My mother doesn't suspect anything. She's too busy being OCD to notice. I feel bad for her though; I see what it does to her.
Lately, the police have come to my high school to crack down on the drug and violence problem. Detective Tim Mathews (Clooney) has interviewed me a couple times about what I see around school and all, but Ms. Lund always reminds him I would never do anything like that. Despite her reminders, Detective Mathews still seems a little suspicious of me. Hopefully he doesn't get too suspicious.
It's a tough task selling drugs, the lying, the manipulating, your conscience plays with you, but it's okay since I'm using the money for college. I just need to watch my steps, filter what I say and I'll be okay. Yeah, I'll be okay…
What the Press would say:
George Clooney's latest task as a director brings us a chilling story of family, deceit, and hope for the future. It begs the question do the ends really justify the means. Clooney challenges the audience to think about it. What would you do if your life was predetermined? Would you do anything you could you change it? To Terrence, played magnificently by Brandon Mychal Smith, his actions are legitimized because of his desire to attend college, or at least that's what he tries to tell himself. Smith conveys this troubled and confused persona of Terrence perfectly. The fate of the movie relies heavily on Smith's performance and he rises to the occasion. The two most powerful scenes in the movie come when Terrence visits Marshall in prison and Terrence trying to cope with his mother's OCD. Smith shines in both these scenes. Countering Terrence on screen is his mother Jillian. Jillian is a strong woman, but struggles to contain her OCD. It is shown in bits and pieces, but it brings out the best in Thandie Newton. She is superb as Jillian and portrays every emotion exquisitely. Newton has just enough screen time to be considered lead and that is exactly what the studio is doing. It makes the road to her first Oscar difficult, but I still think it can happen. In the supporting roles, Jamie Campbell Bower and Laura Linney give stellar performances in their respective roles. Bower brings range and courage to a role that easily could have been too much. Derek yearns for acceptance and feels if he does what is necessary, a common theme throughout the film, he too will become popular. It is this naive attitude that makes Bower's performance so brilliant. Bower has the look, the attitude, and traits required of this role. He is not acting, he is Derek. Laura Linney gives one of her best performances to date as Terrence's idealistic English teacher. Ms. Lund looks for the best in everyone, which cause her to overlook or deny certain aspects about her students. She sees herself as a motherly figure to Terrence and she treats him like that. Terrence sinisterly takes advantage of this and manipulates Ms. Lund to take his side on almost everything. Overall, the performance and Clooney's direction makes "Between the Line of Life and Death" one of the best films of the year.
Best Director (George Clooney)
Best Actor (Brandon Mychal Smith)
Best Actress (Thandie Newton)
Best Supporting Actor (Jamie Campbell Bower)
Best Supporting Actress (Laura Linney)
Best Original Screenplay