EmptyA melodramatic story line is given an admirable but ultimately detrimental low-key treatment in "The Favor."
This tale of a lonely middle-age man becoming a foster father to the son of the woman who broke his heart 25 years ago is told in such a muted fashion that it barely registers.
The Seventh Art Releasing film's central character is Lawrence (Tony-winning stage veteran Frank Wood), who lives a solitary existence in suburban New Jersey. A photographer who divides his time between doing portraits of pets and shooting mug shots at the local police station, his sole company is his dog.
One day he receives a phone call out of the blue from his former high-school girlfriend Caroline (Paige Turco), now a recently divorced single mother to a rebellious teenage son, Johnny (Ryan Donowho). They soon go on a promising date, but soon afterward she dies in a freak accident.
Since Johnny's sole living relative is his wheelchair-bound, Alzheimer's suffering grandfather, Lawrence manages to assume guardianship. The two quickly come into conflict, as the decent, long-suffering bachelor struggles to break down Johnny's emotional barriers.
Director-screenwriter Eva Aridjis seems so intent on avoiding histrionics that almost nothing makes an impact. Lawrence's reactions, both to the sudden reappearance of his old flame and then her immediate demise, are barely discernible, and his motivations, other than obvious loneliness, remain unexplored. Although Wood attempts to compensate for the emotional gaps with his soulful facial expressions, he's ultimately unable to compensate for the filmmaker's too laid-back approach.