Cleaver's Destiny: Film Review

A young woman attempts to reconnect with her dementia-addled, war veteran father in Karl Lentini's debut feature.

Filmmaker Karl Lentini may have bitten off a bit more than he can chew with Cleaver’s Destiny, his indie feature about a young woman attempting to reconnect with her long lost Gulf War veteran father. This well-meaning effort tackles a number of socially relevant issues ranging from the plight of the homeless to the PTSD suffered by veterans, but Lentini -- making his feature debut by writing, producing, directing, co-editing, starring  and even composing the music -- lacks the cinematic chops necessary to pull it all together.

When we are first introduced to the central character of eighteen-year-old Amy Cleaver (Jenny Leona di Gennaro), it quickly becomes apparent that she’s leading a troubled existence. In an early scene, she angrily confronts the married man with whom she had an affair, her former teacher who slept with her when she was just seventeen. Her garishly dressed psychic mother (Alexis Corey) is of little help.

"We’ve all been dumped, you know," she says by way of comforting her.  

When Amy receives a box from her grandmother containing the possessions of her father who disappeared after returning home from the war, she contacts the Department of Veterans Affairs thinking that they might help her locate his grave. But she soon discovers that he is in fact very much alive and living a nomadic existence on the streets of Los Angeles.  

With surprisingly little effort, she finds him, only to realize that he is suffering from dementia and has no idea who she is. Nonetheless, she takes the self-described "Captain of the Snapple Command" -- he earns money by recycling bottles and cans --home with her and attempts to clean him up by literally teaching him how to shave. When she finds a place for him at a veteran’s facility he quickly escapes, leading to a series of complications as she attempts to forge a connection even as his volatile past catches up with him.

The film squanders its intriguing premise with its increasingly convoluted and unconvincing narrative. Not helping matters is the amateurish production, with the acting and technical aspects falling far short of being polished. Lentini is more effective as an actor than as a filmmaker, however, infusing his characterization with a suitably haunted, dissipated quality that vividly evokes both the ravages of mental illness and the lingering traumatic effects of warfare. The supporting performances are less persuasive, with the exception of Corey’s enjoyable turn as the fortune-telling mother.

Opened Sept. 27 (Dagger Charge Films)

JennyWhine Entertainment

Cast: Jenny Leona di Gennaro, Karl Lentini, Alexis Corey, Luke Sabis, Rob Roy Cesar, Samantha Lester

Director/producer/screenwriter/composer: Karl Lentini

Director of photography: Joe di Gennaro

Editors: Joe di Gennaro, Karl Lentini

Production designer: Gary Kroytor

Costume designer: Kate Lombardi

Not rated, 92 min.

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