How nice it is to see Sean Connery in a film befitting his age as well as his extraordinary talents. Finding Forrester isn’t a movie just about finding a man, as the title might suggest. It’s about finding the heart of a man, his fears and his dreams. Because, dreams can only be realized when fears are quelled and the heart is open.
This is a small film by today’s standards. It is shot extensively in a dark, dingy Bronx, New York apartment where Connery’s character, William Forrester, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author has hidden from the world for decades. His first and only book was published forty years ago and he remains an enigma in literary circles. In the course of those years, the Bronx neighborhood where he lives has changed much. His apartment house is surrounded mostly by housing projects and the kids who frequent the park across the street are basketball-playing, rap-reciting tough kids.
From the top floor window, behind the vaguely rustling curtain, Forrester watches it all, never wanting anything more than to be left alone, undisturbed. But to the kids who play ball, that mysterious top floor window only elicits wonder and scary tales.
One day, 16-year old Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown), a well-read student who loves to write, takes up the challenge to find out who lives in the apartment. His discovery leads to a most unusual relationship with a man who, over time, becomes his mentor for both his writing and for life’s important lessons. It’s a friendship grown out of respect for each other’s capabilities. Forrester finds a young man confused with the direction of his life and Jamal finds an old man who no longer has a direction. The key to growth is the expression of emotions. Forrester is able to lend Jamal his words so that Jamal may find his own and the boy’s writing reaches new dimension.
It is through his friendship with Forrester that Jamal is able to take another challenge, accepting entry to a pricey private school that has offered him a scholarship. Jamal must leave behind his old friends and neighborhood and apply himself as never before. But, his direction is a whole lot clearer. As for Forrester, it is through Jamal’s influence that he is able to reenter the world that he abandoned so many years before.
This is a beautifully written character study with fine performances . Connery plays Forrester as a man with as many flaws as he has strengths and it’s wonderful to watch. First-timer Rob Brown is lucky to have had the opportunity to play opposite Connery. Not only did his character have a mentor, but so did Brown, the actor. He did a respectable job playing Jamal. F. Murray Abraham plays Professor Crawford, the bitter teacher who threatens Jamal’s progress. It’s a role all too typically seen in such movies. Look for rapper Busta Rhymes as Jamal’s brother Terrell – another decent acting job. Anna Paquin plays Claire, a friendly student at Jamal’s new school who latches on to him a little too quickly and Michael Nouri plays her father Dr. Spence.
It’s directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting). There was a long incomprehensible rap spiel at the start of the film that served no purpose that I could discern and I had trouble with some of the audio in the beginning when Jamal’s talking with his friends. Overlapping dialogue, poor audio quality and the use of extensive slang made it difficult to understand them but I figured it was largely irrelevant. As for the story, it’s nice (maybe too nice) and very, very predictable.
Lotta says Finding Forrester is touching but could have used a good kick in the pants to shake up the characters more and make it far more interesting.