Just Like the Son
by Phil Boatwright

Mark Webber, Rosie Perez, Brendan Sexton III. Drama. Written & directed by Morgan J. Freeman. 86 min.

FILM SYNOPSIS: A petty thief and a young boy trapped in the social service system in New York City set out on a road trip that will change both their lives.

A series of bad deeds lands Daniel (Mark Webber) in community service at an elementary school in New York City, where he bonds with Boone, a cheeky boy whose spirit belies his family situation. When Boone disappears from school one day, Daniel feels a surge of responsibility for the first time in his 20 years.

Daniel snatches the boy from a home for parentless kids and the two flee to Dallas, on a quest to find Boone's only sister. But Daniel is no angel, and the challenges of evading police and paying for gas kick his survivalist mentality into high gear. Although Daniel may be saving a would-be orphan from falling through the system's cracks, he is also breaking the law.

PREVIEW REVIEW: The end justifies the means. Surely that is the theme of those who break all the rules in order to accomplish their goal. Undeniably that is the reasoning of the lead character in Just Like the Son.

Headed down a path paved with self-centeredness, Daniel finally gets what his father has tried to teach him about facing responsibility and finishing what you start. He shows a genuine love for a child who is in desperate need to be loved. But Daniel’s noble intentions are fueled by law-breaking and a steadfastness that generate strife for others. With the six-year-old’s willingness, he snatches the kid from a protective environment, right in front of a worker at the orphanage. Now, that worker would have no idea who that kid-snatcher was or what his intent would be. Think on that, because Daniel doesn’t.

Daniel takes his father’s car without permission, and when funds run low, he steals food from a store, gas from other people’s cars and ultimately gets the kid to serve as a decoy while he pick-pockets a man, stealing his wallet, taking the money and casually throwing the wallet away.

There are times when laws get in the way of justice, but the concept here seems ridiculous. He’s trying to get the boy to his sister. Why doesn’t the dying mother do that? How come a six-year-old and a stranger can do what computers and child-care authorities can’t? With a little detective work, couldn’t Daniel have reunited them with a phone call and a plane ticket? In an age when child abduction has become an epidemic, the kidnapping of a child, even in the name of justice, is not only dysfunctional, but alarming to contemplate.

Mark Webber gives an adequate performance, while little Antonio Ortiz steals the show with his timing and sincerity. Director Morgan J. Freeman keeps the action lively and injects some tender moments, but he’s saddled with a low budget and a faulty premise that reflects an age governed by mixed morality messages. We live in a time and culture where laws seem more like suggestions. And that seems alright with this production.

Unrated at time of screening, the script is fairly clean, punctuated infrequently by a couple of obscenities, a few comic crudities and the implication that the lead spends the night with a girl he’s just met. The lead justifies his frequent crimes not only to himself, but to the boy. The lead is seen smoking dope and drinking.