Dir: Michael Cuesta. US.2005. 90mins.
A deft, nuanced drama which, while conventionally framed, still feels freshand new, Twelve And Holding is a delight. Its three child stars are allstrong, but this film will be remembered for young actress Zoe Weizenbaum'sperformance as a young girl caught between precocious childhood and the fullonslaught of femininity.
L.I.E's Michael Cuesta, directing from Anthony Cipriano'smulti-layered script, skilfully pushes through several dramatic - oftenmelodramatic - plot-lines simultaneously without ever overwhelming the film. Heuses comedy and colour to diffuse the highly-charged emotions involved andsomehow reminds audiences of that age when everything is a matter of life anddeath -only in this case, it really is.
Like the young children atthe onset of the story, Twelve And Holding's future is a blank page.This could have mid-sized commercial breakout potential; although it lacks thedramatic crescendos of a Stand By Me, it is a less showy and deceptivelymore ambitious film than Rob Reiner's classic.
If it goes down the arthouseroute instead then it will be regarded as an accomplished work that willattract attention, with a chance of indie awards notice for 14-year-oldWeizenbaum, who will soon appear in Memoirs Of A Geisha.
But it also runs the risk offalling between the cracks of the two circuits - and this is why this it willneed a committed team and strategic release plan if it is to succeed in either.
The delicate drama iscentred around three children in the wake of a tragic event. Jacob (Donovan),scarred by a birthmark on his face, loses his extrovert twin brother Rudy in aviolent event, with best friends Malee (Weizenbaum) and Leonard (Camach) alsoleft reeling in the aftermath.
As Jacob's parents (Roacheand Atkinson) attempt bleakly to fill the void, Leonard tackles his weightproblem in a very individual way and Malee becomes obsessed with one of herpsychiatrist mother's (Sciorra) patients, nicely played by Renner.
The younger characters areon the cusp of adulthood; they instinctively grasp more than their parentsrealise, and yet there is so much they poignantly don't understand. Theirattempts to fix the situation are clumsy and could, at any moment, go wrongbeyond what they are mature enough to see - a tension that is beautifullymaintained throughout.
Cuesta's accomplishment isto present the drama from the children's perspective; to leaven it with comedy,and to trickle in the adult performances to position the audience somewhere inthe middle of the two. He avoids pathos and cheap sentimentality, and has givenhimself quite a challenge to pull together the various strands of this film,which is more complex than it superficially appears. But he is well up to thetask.
Echo Lake Productions
Anthony S Cipriano