'Milton's Secret': Film Review
Donald Sutherland plays a grandfather helping a stressed-out boy appreciate the life he's living.
A light family drama in which a boy makes sense of the deep truths eluding his parents, Milton's Secret adapts a story by pop-spirituality author Eckhart Tolle to demonstrate the value of living in the present moment. Barnet Bain, producer of such earlier enlightenment-seeking features as The Celestine Prophecy and What Dreams May Come, makes his second outing as director, with an earnest and inoffensive outing whose commercial value owes mostly to the presence of Donald Sutherland as the boy's wise old granddad.
William Ainscough plays the title character, a curly-headed kid whose parents (Mia Kirchner and David Sutcliffe) have been visibly worried lately about money. Add this to the bullying he's getting at school, and Milton is not a terribly happy kid at the moment. Neither Milton's angst nor the bully menace comes across as much to worry about in Bain's hands; with some visual techniques and bits of storytelling less effective than they're meant to be, the film relies on viewers' bringing their own worries to the table.
Enter Sutherland's Stewart, a onetime soldier who has found enlightenment in his golden years. He shows up for a visit with a bag full of Hawaiian shirts, a tea set, and a knowing twinkle in his eye, all of which his daughter seems to view as a widower's foolishness.
Rigging his phone to play Donovan tunes in the back yard, Stewart begins a gardening project and tries to encourage Milton not to dwell on the past or fret over the future. He doesn't tell him he could avoid some of his parents' woes by not taking out loans for a Mercedes or an overly fancy house, but that's a lesson for another film.
Sutherland brings some believable warmth to a film whose spiritual "aha" moments are generally packaged too tidily to hit home. But while he helps keep the pic out of Lifetime territory, nothing else here feels as real as he does, and the script's anodyne lessons feel no fresher than the last dozen times enlightened moviemakers have shared them with us.
Production company: Buck Productions, Hulo Films, Riverside Entertainment
Distributor: Momentum Pictures
Cast: William Ainscough, Mia Kirchner, David Sutcliffe, Donald Sutherland, Percy Hynes-White, Hays Wellford, Michelle Rodriguez
Director: Barnet Bain
Screenwriters: Barnet Bain, Sara B. Cooper, Donald Martin
Producers: Sean Buckley, Fred Fuchs, Stephen Huszar, Ryan Lockwood
Executive producers: Barnet Bain, Lawrence Greenberg, Berry Meyerowitz
Director of photography: Ray Dumas
Production designer: Elisa Sauve
Costume designer: Patrick Antosh
Editor: Dev Singh
Casting director: Larissa Mair
PG, 87 minutes