Like Dandelion Dust -- Film Review



Depicting the battle between two sets of parents over the adoptive rights to a 7-year-old boy, "Like Dandelion Dust" threatens at times to boil over into melodrama. Although best suited for cable TV -- Lifetime seems like a natural fit -- Jon Gunn's film benefits from a quartet of highly effective performances and an intriguing exploration of class issues that are too rarely dealt with in contemporary cinema.

While ostensibly designated as a faith-themed film, it wears it religious undertones lightly enough to not alienate even the most atheistic viewers.

Based on a best-selling novel by Karen Kingsbury, the Florida-set story centers on the conflict over Joey (Maxwell Perry Cotton), who was given up for adoption by his birth mother, Wendy (Mira Sorvino), when her factory-worker husband, Rip (Barry Pepper), was sentenced to a seven-year prison sentence for physically abusing her.

It's only when a rehabilitated Rip is released and reunites with his wife that he even learns of his son's existence. He decides that the path to redemption is to reclaim the boy, who has been raised since birth in a loving, pampered environment by his well-heeled adoptive parents, Jack (Cole Hauser) and Molly (Kate Levering).

Needless to say, Jack and Molly are unwilling to part with their son, who has not been informed of his adoptive status. But they find themselves on the losing end of the legal argument when it's revealed that Rip's name was forged on the adoption papers.

Although its story line has no shortage of familiar elements, the film gains impact from the complexity of its characterizations, with none of its principal figures displaying the sort of one-note attributes that would have rendered the proceedings in black and white rather than shades of gray. Indeed, it's hard to know who to root for, with the result that an extra layer of suspense is attached.

Although Sorvino and Levering are highly sympathetic as the mothers, it's the male leads who more fully impress. Pepper infuses his rough-hewn, blue-collar character with unexpected layers, and Hauser, given the rare chance to deviate from the B-movie thrillers to which he often has been consigned, projects a fascinating combination of fierce protectiveness and emotional vulnerability.

Opens: Friday, Sept. 24 (Blue Collar Releasing)
Production: Downes Bros. Entertainment, Lucky Crow Films
Cast: Mira Sorvino, Barry Pepper, Cole Hauser, Kate Levering, Maxwell Perry Cotton, L. Scott Caldwell, Abby Brammell, Kirk Woller
Director-editor: Jon Gunn
Screenwriters: Stephen J. Rivele, Michael LaChance. Producers: Kevin Downes, Bobby Downes, Kerry David
Executive producers: Shelene M. Bryan, Geoff Ludlow
Director of photography: Reynaldo Villalobos
Music: Nathan Larson
Production designer: Shawn Carroll
Costume designer: Stephen Chudej
Rated PG-13, 104 minutes