Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"A refreshingly intelligent film with skillfully drawn characters."

Terri (Jacob Wysocki) is fat. There's no getting around it. He's so fat that he's given up trying to fit in at school. He goes there wearing pyjamas because they're comfortable. At home, his parents having left long ago, he cares for an uncle with dementia. They watch an old television with a constantly flickering picture. He doesn't really have any friends. He reads; he wanders around in the woods. His uncle assures him that his life isn't that bad, and he agrees - it could be worse.

But things are getting worse for Terri. It's getting harder to cope with the taunts and the general atmosphere of hostility. So he's increasingly absent from school, until one day deputy headmaster Mr Fitzgerald (John C Reilly) calls him into his office and becomes determined that he's going to help the boy.

Copy picture

Helping isn't easy, and neither is being helped. Fitzgerald is an old hand at this sort of thing but over the years he has grown tired and cynical. Terri is sharp enough to see straight through the usual ruses. So instead of another simplistic tale about an inspirational teacher who changes a boy's life, we get the story of an against-the-odds friendship that changes both parties. Ultimately, to become the person he wants to be, Terri needs to take a different kind of responsibility for himself.

This is a refreshingly intelligent film with skillfully drawn characters. Wysocki is thoughtful and engaging in the central role even at his most miserable. Reilly is fantastic, conjuring up all the bluster and fury that makes schoolchildren terrified of their headmasters, then showing us the human being behind it. Fitzgerald's anarchic spirit doesn't preclude selfishness and the story is at once down-to-Earth and very funny. The usual teen film conventions - friendship with a troublemaker, romantic interest in a girl who is probably out of our hero's league - are explored briefly and then twisted in unexpected directions. Perhaps most pleasingly of all, there is no exciting and populat thin person trying to break out of Terri - he is just Terri, and his story tells us that he deserves to be respected as he is.

Despite a few slow stretches and occasionally awkward plotting, this is a film with a lot to offer, especially to young people. Wysocki has real talent and one can only hope this leads to further roles. If not, sad to say, it will probably be because he is fat.

Reviewed on: 02 Feb 2012
Share this with others on...
An unhappy, overweight boy with a difficult home life finds inspiration in a deputy headteacher who loves to break the rules.
Amazon link

Director: Azazel Jacobs

Writer: Patrick Dewitt, Azazel Jacobs

Starring: Jacob Wysocki, John C. Reilly, Creed Bratton, Diane Salinger, Olivia Crocicchia, Bridger Zadina, Jenna Gavigan, Tara Karsian, Jessica D. Stone, Melanie Abramoff, Mary Anne McGarry, Jamie Lee Redmon, Justin Prentice, Curtiss Frisle, Lisa Hoover

Year: 2011

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Search database:

Related Articles:

Sundance 2011: Day Three