September 1, 2009


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I had a conversation last week with a man who was trapped. Trapped by his decisions, trapped by circumstances, trapped by obligations. There was no way out. I could see the the fear on his face, the stress. There was no way out. I felt it in my gut, for a small piece of time, what he felt. Except I could get away from it. I thought about cooking dinner for my family. About my upcoming trip to Greece. Snap. I was away from the trapped feeling. I was free. But this man, he was not free. And I both feared for him and feared him.

The movie Forgiven is about a man in such a circumstance. Ronald Bradler (Russell Hornsby) is about to be executed for a crime he didn't commit. With six minutes to spare, he is pardoned. But the stigma of a felony is still there. He can't find a job, he can't make a living. There is no way out.

The district attorney (Paul Fitzgerald, who also wrote and directed) who convicted Bradler is running for the senate, and who, propelled by community expectations and drive, made some mistakes of his own on the case. He, too, trapped by circumstances, made a slave of public perception. The DA and the felon meet and what happens is not good. In fact, it's heart-wrenching, tragic and I cried for a long time.

The film has that independent film edge to it, the footage seems raw and real. The actors do a fine job - and it's a powerful story. To be honest, I'm having a hard time writing about the film itself instead of the storyline. Each of the characters were real to me and I felt that I was witnessing something real, which made it very difficult to watch, given the subject matter.

I suppose feeling a part of the film is a testament to the filmmaking. Isn't that the point of films, to pull the audience in, to feel connected to the characters, to cry when unspeakable tragedy and horror encroaches on the screen? On all counts, I felt a part of this film. Its message is strong - and hard to look in the eyes.

This isn't a "hey it's Friday, let's hang out and watch a movie" kind of a movie. It's more of a rainy-Sunday-afternoon-I-want-to-change-the-world kind of a movie. And you will want to change the world after you see Forgiven. When I finished watching the movie, I spent the next few hours dreaming about working on The Innocence Project, as a lawyer, as an assistant, anything. I dreamed about having a job that can take away the hopeless feeling - of employing people like Ronald, or maybe being a counselor. I could help. In some way.

Then. It was time for dinner. And life went on as it normally does. And I went back to my job and dreaming about my vacation, my mind hosting a seed for change somewhere, that at some point will grow into an idea of what I can do to help. But right now, I don't know.

Forgiven is available on iTunes and at


chelsea said...

Sounds good. Love your review.