Handsome Harry

Handsome Harry


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Earlier this year Aussie film Three Blind Mice tackled the notions of friendship, betrayal and possible redemption in the armed forces courtesy of three young naval officers on shore leave. Handsome Harry is its soulmate and while here, the boys have become middle-aged men, the memory of past transgressions burns as deep as if they had happened yesterday.

Harry is handsome, now as then, and charming and something of a pillar in his local community. But although not a conman in the truest 'flash Harry' sense, he is a chameleon, blending in, masking his true colours, particularly when it comes to emotion. On the verge of retirement and with the hint of a new relationship in the wings with diner dame (Karen Young), divorcee Harry is getting ready for some serious prime time, when a call from his past sets the closeted skeletons a chattering.

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One of his erstwhile naval bunkmates Kelly (Steve Buscemi, in a brief but scene-stealing role) is dying of cancer and the sins of the past are weighing heavily upon him, specifically an argument with one of their bestest buddies Kagan (Campbell Scott), which left Kagan maimed. Neither Harry nor Kelly can remember the event as clearly as they would like - or perhaps they can't forget it as well as they want to - prompting Harry to go on a personal Odyssey, visiting the rest of their cabal in turn to find out who did what to whom and why.

Each of the men represents a different aspect of male sexuality, including - but not limited to - the selfless, possiby celibate Gebhardt (Titus Welliver) and violent alpha male Peter (John Savage). And each of the men is struggling to come to terms with their past. As Harry continues his "progress" towards Kagan and the truth about his own involvement in the original fight, we are drip-fed scenes from the past, shot in sumptous shades and laden with some powerful jazz scoring.

Wonderful performances abound. Jamey Sheridan - most familiar for his long-standing role as Captain Deakins in Law And Order: Criminal Intent - brings to mind Richard Jenkins' knock-out performance in The Visitor, such is his quiet and effortless intensity as Harry. It's amazing he didn't pip Ciaran Hinds to the Tribeca 2009 acting award. Meanwhile, Young, Savage, Welliver, Scott and Aiden Quinn all match him step-for-step in their supporting roles. Director Bette Gordon is aware of parallels and uses her camera wisely to make certain aspects of each encounter mirror and recall one another to help build events to a moving climax.

The only downside of Handsome Harry is that its narrative arc is as simple as its emotional journey is complex. This means that the film feels slightly episodic, with the flashbacks not quite able to paper over the joins between each of Harry's encounters. But make no mistake, this film has an emotional heart that's beating fast.

Reviewed on: 17 May 2009
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A phonecall from his past prompts a man to go on a journey in the hopes of redemption.

Director: Bette Gordon

Writer: Nicholas T Proferes

Starring: Jamey Sheridan, Steve Buscemi, Mariann Mayberry, Aidan Quinn, John Savage, Campbell Scott, Titus Welliver, Karen Young, Bill Sage, Emily Donahoe

Year: 2009

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: US

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Three Blind Mice