Explicit Ills -- Film Review

Benjamin Walker
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NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Actor Benjamin Walker attends the "Bloody Bloody Jackson" opening night after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on October 13, 2010 in New York City.

Festival de Cannes -- Market

CANNES -- In "Explicit Ills," actor Mark Webber, making his debut as a film writer and director, loosely bases interlocking stories on his impoverished childhood and teen years on the streets of Philadelphia. This is not your usual portrait of drugs, violence and promiscuous sex but rather an observant, empathetic tale of people in a daily struggle with hardship. The kids are barely aware of their poverty while the adults remain hopeful and even determined to pull themselves free of tough times.

Webber has enlisted actor friends including Paul Dano, Rosario Dawson, Lou Taylor Pucci and Naomie Harris and gotten Jim Jarmusch to sign aboard as exec producer. Alas, a lack of true drama in these quotidian stories undercuts his goal to acquaint viewers with lives lived on the edge.

The distinction between off-handedness and aimlessness gets very fuzzy here. Plus, the characters remain at arm's length. You never get to know anyone deeply enough.

It isn't even clear until the end that everyone knows each other. A tragedy then tries to pull everything together and drive home a point about a health care system in shambles. No arguments there but a public service message does not a movie make.