Mixing Love and ‘Attraction’

Oftentimes we spend considerable portions of our lives hoping that we’ll be the beneficiaries of our most cherished aspirations, especially when it comes to finding the loves of our lives. We hold out hope that the perfect soul mate will walk into our existence and join us in a life of happily ever after. But do we really believe in the possibility of that happening? And, if so, what does it take to realize it? Those are among the questions addressed in the new metaphysical romance, “The Secret: Dare to Dream” (web site, trailer).

Miranda Wells (Katie Holmes) is a woman with a lot of challenges. The widowed mother of three has difficulty making ends meet, tries to prop up a house that’s falling apart and faces a variety of pressures on many different fronts. Oh, and now the Louisiana community where she lives is facing the prospect of a hurricane headed her way. What more could happen?

To her credit, though, Miranda has her share of allies in her corner. Her boss, Tucker Middendorf (Jerry O’Connell), owner of the seafood restaurant where she works as a manager, treats her well, both professionally and personally as a potential romantic interest. Her children – Missy (Sarah Hoffmeister), Greg (Aidan Pierce Brennan) and Bess (Chloe Lee) – are sometimes a little demanding but always have their mother’s back. And Miranda’s mother-in-law, Bobby (Celia Weston), never hesitates to help out, even if she can be a bit overbearing at times. But, even with all this assistance, Miranda’s about to receive a new and even bigger source of help, one she never saw coming.

While driving home after work to prepare her house for the approaching storm, Miranda gets into a tiff with Missy over her impending Sweet 16 party, an argument that distracts her and results in a fender bender, the last thing she needs at a time like this. Fortunately, the crash victim is unhurt and proves to be an eminently reasonable soul; as Miranda freely acknowledges her responsibility for the incident, the other driver, Bray Johnson (Josh Lucas), assures her that it’s no big deal, pointing out that her aging minivan bore the brunt of the damage and that his hulking pickup truck was virtually unharmed. In fact, he’s so laid back about things that he offers to repair her vehicle to keep the insurance company from becoming involved. Miranda is stunned by the offer, but, when Bray reveals he’s a Vanderbilt University engineering professor who just happens to be in town on business, she agrees to his generous and thoughtful proposal. It also doesn’t hurt that she quietly finds him cute, a feeling that appears to be mutual.

Challenged single mother Miranda Wells (Katie Holmes, left) receives an unexpected wealth of help from a visiting engineering professor, Bray Johnson (Josh Lucas, right), after a minor traffic accident in the new metaphysical love story, “The Secret: Dare to Dream.” Photo by Alfonso Pompo Brescianni, courtesy of Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate.

Bray follows Miranda to her home to work on the repairs when he comes upon a startling realization – she lives at the same place where he had stopped by earlier in the day to conduct the business that brought him to town in the first place. But, since she was not present at the time, her absence kept him from taking care of things. And now that he’s caught up in the repair work, as well as a boatload of questions from Miranda’s ever-inquisitive children, he decides the timing isn’t right to discuss business and holds off on saying anything.

In gratitude for his unexpected help, Miranda invites Bray to stay for dinner, at which point everyone starts to get to know one another better. The discussion turns somewhat philosophical as Miranda details the many challenges she faces, and it’s apparent that she’s a firm believer in Murphy’s Law. By contrast, Bray shares his viewpoint, one that’s based on the idea that “the glass is half full” and that help always seems to arrive just when one needs it. He offers analogies to illustrate his point, but he never pushes his perspective on his host. However, if Miranda has any common sense, she should realize that, based on her own recent experience, he’s right.

With the storm about to make landfall, Bray makes his exit, again without completing his unfinished business. Yet, little does anyone know, this seemingly innocuous and random encounter marks the beginning of a deeper, more involved connection, one that unfolds with a variety of unforeseen implications. And it’s a story that reflects much of what Miranda and Bray discussed over dinner, a scenario with ramifications on an array of fronts.

Single mother Miranda Wells (Katie Holmes, left) faces a variety of challenges raising her three children, Greg (Aidan Pierce Brennan, second from left), Missy (Sarah Hoffmeister, second from right) and Bess (Chloe Lee, right), in the new metaphysical love story, “The Secret: Dare to Dream.” Photo by Alfonso Pompo Brescianni, courtesy of Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate.

Upon closer examination of Bray’s prevailing outlook on life, we see that he believes we draw into our lives what we focus on, for better or worse. This is the philosophy behind the law of attraction (a.k.a., conscious creation), which maintains that our lives and existence are shaped by the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents, with the resulting conditions mirroring whatever input we provide. It’s ultimately what accounts for the positivity that pervades Bray’s life and the challenges that characterize Miranda’s existence. And it’s why Bray’s needs are met whenever they arise and why Miranda’s burden always seems to grow ever larger.

At its heart, the law of attraction is a fairly simple concept, one that faithfully lives up to its core principle. But it should also be noted that it’s not a fixed notion, either; it’s subject to change, depending on whatever thoughts, beliefs and intents we put into it. It would be just as easy for Miranda to attain the same kinds of outcomes as Bray as long as she puts forth beliefs in line with those sought-after results. All she need do is shift her focus.

Admittedly, this may not always be easy, especially if we’re accustomed to thinking, believing and intending along particular lines. It’s unclear how long Miranda has been sending out her disconcerting vibes, though much of her trouble seems to have begun when her husband, Matt (Corey Scott Allen), was killed in a plane crash. The kindly but largely unsuccessful inventor wasn’t always the best provider to begin with, but his death left her saddled with the responsibility for raising her three children alone, as well as the other problems noted earlier.

However, as Bray’s observations – and presence – indicate, Miranda’s circumstances indeed need not be set in stone. And, as their interaction grows, further proof of this emerges. Bray brings to the table what Miranda needs, and this prompts realizations that cause her beliefs to shift. Before long, the glass is no longer half empty.

Restaurant manager Miranda Wells (Katie Holmes, left) seeks to manage both a professional and romantic relationship with her boss, Tucker Middendorf (Jerry O’Connell, right), in “The Secret: Dare to Dream,” a fictionalized adaptation of Rhonda Byrne’s wildly popular self-help video and book. Photo by Alfonso Pompo Brescianni, courtesy of Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate.

Of course, there’s more to all this than just adjusting our thinking. It’s important to recognize the emergence of clues that indicate we’re getting what we ask for (again, as always, for better or worse). These materialized hints, known as synchronicities, offer manifested evidence of our intents coming to life. These seemingly perfectly tailored “coincidences” often jump out at us with stunning clarity, though sometimes they may be more subtle, taking forms that aren’t readily recognizable at first glance. For example, Miranda’s fender bender might initially appear to be yet another challenge she doesn’t need. However, as events unfold, it proves to be exactly what she needs in a variety of areas. One could say this is the proverbial silver lining in the cloud. At the same time, though, it could also be that Miranda had been so oblivious to the existence of the law of attraction that she needed something significant to “jolt” her into awareness, something that a car accident could achieve quite effectively (and rather metaphorically at that). Some have characterized this as God whispering in our ears, an apt description, to be sure. We just need to make certain that we’re listening.

While much of what happens in “Dare to Dream” deals with the law of attraction at work in a romantic context, it’s by no means limited to this application. It can be employed in attaining whatever we need, for it applies to the creation of the totality of our existence, not just random components. So, even though we may be using it to manifest a particular objective, that doesn’t mean it’s stopped working in other areas that are receiving less of our attention. Those materializations may go on autopilot as we focus the majority of our intents in other directions, but they’re in operation nevertheless, creating a reality based on whatever thoughts, beliefs and intents we have allowed to settle into place as we work our magic in our primary area of attention.

What’s most crucial to remember in all this, though, is that our reality emerges in line with our focus and in highly tailored ways (as the synchronicities illustrate). Because of that, we must continually be aware of the specific thoughts, beliefs and intents we’re putting forth, for the results will reflect them with sparkling fidelity. This means examining those inputs down to the finest of nuances, for they will provide the shading and coloring to the overall manifestations. If we allow undermining influences to creep into our focus, for example, we’re likely to see such elements showing up in the end result. If we hold a vision of a particular outcome but it’s tainted by doubt, for instance, our sought-after result may materialize in a distorted form – or not at all – no matter how convinced we may think we are about the viability of the manifestation of the primary goal. Indeed, this speaks directly to the idea of “Be careful what you wish for.”

When examined from an overarching perspective and applied skillfully, the law of attraction truly can make miracles happen. What’s more, the palette of possibilities is open-ended; it all depends on what we do with it. However, as the film’s title suggests, all we really need do is dare to dream, because, in the end, dreams indeed can come true.

Long-simmering romantic feelings are put to the test for single mother Miranda Wells (Katie Holmes, right) and divorced engineering professor Bray Johnson (Josh Lucas, left) in “The Secret: Dare to Dream,” now available for first-run online streaming. Photo by Alfonso Pompo Brescianni, courtesy of Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate.

While admittedly schmaltzy, sometimes predictable, cloyingly cheerful and thinly written, this long-simmering love story based on the metaphysical teachings of the wildly successful self-help video and book “The Secret” (2006) is clearly an easy target for cynical critics and skeptics of the material’s basic premises. What’s more, the look and feel of the film often seem like something straight off The Hallmark Channel or Lifetime Television. Nevertheless, this crowd-pleasing take on law of attraction philosophy does a more than capable job of illustrating its rudimentary principles without belaboring the instructional aspect, working its ideas into the narrative seamlessly, subtly and effectively. This is not groundbreaking cinema, but it is by far one of the best fictionalized cinematic adaptations of self-help material for the big screen that I have ever seen. Even if somewhat sappy, it’s refreshing to see an uplifting release come along that offers viewers hope and inspiration during trying times – or any time for that matter. The film is available for first-run online streaming.

We’re all familiar with the old adage that maintains “Love springs eternal.” And, thanks to the law of attraction, it’s more achievable than most of us realize. However, if we keep the possibility at arm’s-length, we may forever wander the romantic landscape on our own, hoping against hope that something will happen with a mindset that contends otherwise. But, with a change of mind, we can attain a change of fortune, one bound to bring about a change of heart – for real.

A complete review is available by clicking here.

Shedding Light on the Mystery of Reincarnation

Most of us have heard of the concept of reincarnation, and many of us – including skeptics – are intrigued by the notion. It’s become so ingrained in the culture that we’ve even embraced sayings like “not in this lifetime,” implying matter-of-factly that there’s more than just one incarnation. But how many of us are willing to look past our doubt and genuinely buy into the principle without definitive proof of its existence? That’s one of the questions up for debate in the new family-friendly/young adult comedy-drama, “Mighty Oak” (web site, trailer).

Members of the rock band Army of Love and thrilled with their success. As rising stars in the music world, the San Diego-based band members are happy about the growing number of viewers checking out their online videos, as well as the performance opportunities coming their way, such as a gig to open for a headline act at the Hollywood Bowl. Much of that success comes from the band’s charismatic front man, guitarist and lead vocalist Vaughn Jackson (Levi Dylan), and the astute marketing of the group’s savvy manager, Gina (Janel Parrish), Vaughn’s sister. Indeed, Army of Love really seems to be going places.

But that all changes one fateful night as the band heads home. In an instant, their future takes a dramatic left turn when a drunk driver hits their vehicle, killing Vaughn, as well as the opportunities awaiting them. It’s a tragedy that carries incalculable costs for all involved.

In the decade after Vaughn’s death, the band members go their separate ways, taking jobs they dislike just to make ends meet. When he’s not giving music lessons to a talentless rock wannabe (Thomas Kasp), backup guitarist Pedro (Carlos PenaVega) works in a restaurant and bar owned by his friend, D.B. (Rodney Hicks), a venue where Army of Love frequently performed. Bassist Alex (Nana Ghana) takes a job as a diner manager, a thankless position where she’s subjected to endless inane requests from irritating customers. And drummer Darby (Ben Milliken) lands a gig in a vintage vinyl store, a job where he drinks his days away when he’s not chasing skirts and shamelessly hawking Army of Love CDs. But the person most severely affected by this tragedy is Gina; she not only lost her brother, but also her livelihood, a development that led to substance abuse, gambling and institutionalization. She misses her brother dearly, and she has trouble coping with the fallout of these circumstances, difficulties that came on the heels of a troubling childhood in which she and Vaughn were routinely shuttled from one foster home to another.

But, as unexpectedly as events unfolded 10 years earlier, new equally unanticipated developments now begin to take shape. In the apartment building adjacent to D.B.’s restaurant and bar (a property he also owns), two new tenants move in, single mother Valerie (Alexa PenaVega), a naval veteran with health issues, and her 10-year-old son, Oak (Tommy Ragen). As D.B.’s daughter, Emma (Gianna Harris), befriends the arrival of her new contemporary, she soon learns that he’s quite a talented musician and songwriter, completely self-taught. Emma is so impressed that she convinces her dad to give him a welcome gift, the guitar that belonged to Vaughn, which had been sitting unused in D.B.’s place for the past decade.

Oak is thrilled, to say the least, even though D.B.’s decision doesn’t set well with Pedro or Gina. Pedro wonders why D.B. would hand off such a cherished item to a virtual stranger, especially since he could have made use of it himself. And Gina is upset that one of her brother’s prized possessions was given away so seemingly thoughtlessly. But, when Pedro and Gina hear Oak play the instrument for the first time, they’re blown away by the prodigy. He’s a sensation, to be sure. However, on top of that, Oak’s guitar technique and stage mannerisms are virtually identical to those of Vaughn. The eerie experience leaves Gina with the unsettling yet uplifting feeling that the young axe virtuoso may be the reincarnation of her late brother.

Given Oak’s knock-out debut, Gina is anxious to get the band back together, especially since she believes she may have a novel marketing angle to draw upon in promoting the group’s comeback. It’s an undertaking simultaneously fueled by a curious mixture of enthusiasm (from Alex, Darby, Emma, and, to a certain degree, Pedro) and opposition (from Valerie and, ironically, to a certain degree, Pedro). And, as this effort plays out further, there are numerous twists and turns involving the relationship between Oak and his band mates, Valerie’s health, and, of course, further hints as to Oak’s true identity. The rollercoaster ride on which everyone is about to embark leads to a series of triumphs, setbacks and unforeseen developments.

Reincarnation is one of those subjects that tends to divide people along very defined lines. Many dismiss it as pure fantasy, while others are hard core believers. But there are also those in the middle, borderline skeptics who could nevertheless be swayed by evidence that lends credence to the validity of the theory. In the end, it’s the beliefs each of us hold that determine what unfolds. If that indeed is the case, however, why does the subject of reincarnation lead to such diverse reactions? And, in light of that, one might then wonder why have they manifested as they have in this particular scenario? Those are questions that truly provide much food for thought.

For the surviving members of Army of Love, there has been much anguish over the loss of their beloved colleague. They miss him terribly, both as an artistic collaborator and as a friend and relative. They really wish he was still with them. But, if that’s the case, why would many of them (except Gina perhaps) be so skittish about his possible return as Oak? What’s more, it raises another equally legitimate question: Why would Vaughn seek to come back?

Those questions can’t be answered simply, because there are multiple considerations involved in a situation like this, both on a personal level and in terms of “the bigger picture,” and those considerations apply to both Vaughn and to those who survived him. Perhaps the most important of these considerations is raising awareness of reincarnation, providing sufficient evidence to eliminate doubt as to the validity of its existence. It’s one of those “bigger picture” concerns designed to make us aware of the legitimacy of this phenomenon, in this case both for Vaughn’s familiars and, perhaps by extension, more widely for the fans of Army of Love (through Gina’s proposed marketing efforts for the reunited band). Making such evidence available is a powerful tool in helping to change the hearts, minds and beliefs of others, to enlighten them to something about our basic nature that has long escaped our awareness or that we have not taken seriously. That’s an important step not only toward raising our awareness of this particular aspect of our existence, but also of our understanding of our greater selves. And, when armed with knowledge like that, we can begin to take giant strides forward in our comprehension of our higher being and the nature of the Universe.

On a more personal level, there are additional considerations involved. Vaughn’s return as Oak helps the band members heal their loss, most notably through an awareness that their friend and relative is always with them, be it in spirit, in modified corporeal form or some combination of both. That can be tremendously comforting to those who have experienced such a tragedy, easing the pain and providing an opportunity for their “relationship” to evolve to a new form. That’s a bonus to the bigger picture considerations already afforded them, one that’s more heartfelt, touching and endearing.

It’s also a gift to Oak as he becomes aware of who he might really be. It enables him to tap into aspects of himself that he may not have otherwise known existed. What’s more, it gives him an appreciation of a fundamental part of existence that is often drummed out of the beliefs of many of us at an impressionable age. By developing an awareness of such knowledge at an early point in his development, he’s able to potentially save himself years of frustration in trying to figure out something about his basic nature that many of us take decades to discover, if at all.

Of course, at the same time, one can’t help but wonder why it took such a tragedy to bring this about. Couldn’t there have been some other way to produce these results? Why did Vaughn’s life have to end for this to happen? For the sake of argument, perhaps there was no other way to bring about these results with the same impact as this event did, tragic though it may have been. If raising awareness about the foregoing issues could best be achieved through these means, then, given the results, one could say it was the correct course, and who can fault that? But it could be argued that there was more behind this particular manifestation. Vaughn may have known that his greater self still had artistic accomplishments to fulfill, and his return as Oak could provide that opportunity, both for himself and for a budding prodigy who may not have had any other means to achieve that goal. There’s also a benefit for his band mates, who now have an opportunity to see their collaboration resume. And, with a name like Army of Love, the band once again has a chance to bring a message to the world that is embodied in the group’s very name, something that a weary world could certainly use more of these days.

When it comes to this family-oriented/young adult comedy-drama, as well as its metaphysical message, the film’s heart may be in the right place, but its execution could use some work. This story touches on some serious and thoughtful subject matter, but that material is often cheapened by attempts at softening it to make it less intense and more youth-friendly. What’s more, the family-friendly aspects are occasionally intruded upon by decidedly more adult material, making for an odd combination of story elements. Add to that production values, writing, acting and direction that come straight out of a cheesy made-for-cable movie, and you’ve got an even stranger concoction. Yet, for all these shortcomings, “Mighty Oak” genuinely seems sincere enough in its attempt to tell a heartfelt and insightful tale that will appeal to its apparent target audience. So, if you can look past these issues, you’ll find a modestly entertaining offering that’s likely to please those who it was made for, as well as those with a mystical bent. Just don’t expect epic filmmaking. The picture is available for first-run online streaming.

It’s a pretty safe bet that most of us would like to think that we get more than just one go-round at this thing we call life. Having additional opportunities to fulfill goals that were left unfinished in one lifetime or to make up for past transgressions or to experience the unexperienced all certainly have a lot of appeal, and reincarnation makes that possible. But, as with virtually anything, our belief in the concept is crucial if we’re to see it realized. Should we proceed down such a path, however, with an unshakable faith in our conviction, we just might see that opportunity arise, one whose viability is genuinely sound – and as sturdy as a mighty oak.

A complete review is available by clicking here.

Too Much of a ‘Good’ Thing?

The well-meaning among us no doubt want to do all we can to aid those in need. But is it possible for there to be too much of a “good” thing? In an effort to be of service, there’s always the possibility we can go too far, making a difficult situation worse than it needs to be. Such is the challenge faced by an idealistic first responder in the gripping Danish drama, “The Guilty” (“Den skyldige”) (web site,  trailer).

Copenhagen Police Officer Asgar Holm (Jakob Cedergren) is frustrated by his job. He’d like to be back on the street, doing the kind of police work that he so loves. But, since he’s currently on probation for an incident under investigation, he’s been reassigned to work the phones at the city’s Emergency Services office. Asgar is bored answering calls like that from a mugging victim (Morten Suurballe) who had his personal property stolen by a street walker in Copenhagen’s red light district, a neighborhood the caller innocently claimed to know nothing about. Then there’s a drunk woman (Caroline Løppke) who makes no sense about why she’s calling, a brief but irritating conversation that works Asgar’s last nerve. And then there’s a plea from a junkie (Simon Bennebjerg) who’s seeking help but can’t bring himself to provide the information Asgar needs to get him proper assistance. It’s enough to fray his otherwise-calm and collected demeanor.

Thankfully, there are a few distractions, such as phone exchanges with Asgar’s buddy Bo (Jacob Hauberg Lohmann), an old friend who works as a dispatcher in the Services’ Copenhagen office. Asgar also takes calls from his street partner, Rashid (Omar Shargawi), a voice he’s pleased to hear. The substance of these calls may not be what Asgar wants to hear – discussions about an upcoming hearing regarding the incident that placed him on probation – but they at least break the tedium of the calls he’d rather not deal with.

Circumstances take a sudden turn, however, when Asgar receives a call from a young woman named Iben (Jessica Dinnage). Asgar is puzzled by what she says; she sounds more like a sex line worker who specializes in a mothering fetish than someone genuinely in trouble. However, he quickly realizes that she’s caught up in a situation where she can’t talk and that she’s pretending to speak with her daughter. Asgar launches into a line of questioning to find out what’s going on.

Copenhagen Police Officer Asgar Holm (Jakob Cedergren), on probation for a work-related incident, spends his days working the phones in the city’s Emergency Services office, a job that frustrates a professional who wishes he was back out on the streets, in director Gustav Möller’s gripping psychological thriller, “The Guilty” (“Den skyldige”), available in various home viewing formats. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

As it turns out, Iben has apparently been kidnapped by her husband, Michael (Johan Olsen), an ex-convict with a history of violent assault. They appear to be in a van headed out of town toward the City of Elsinore in the North Zeeland district. And, even though they appear to be moving away from Copenhagen, Iben is concerned about the safety of her two children, who have been left alone at home. Given her husband’s record, it would appear she has cause for worry.

Asgar contacts a local dispatcher (Jeanette Lindbæk), who takes down the information he’s compiled. She assures him that her staff will handle matters from there. However, given the gravity of the situation, Asgar can’t bring himself to leave matters alone, despite the local dispatcher’s reassurances. What’s more, since his shift is coming to an end, he’s told to go home and let his colleagues field any new local developments that arise; with his hearing coming up the next day, they tell him to go get some much-needed rest before the proceeding – advice that he promptly ignores.

Staying on the phone, Asgar makes further inquiries, such as with Iben’s young daughter, Mathilde (Katinka Evers-Jahnsen), who tearfully provides more background about what went on in the house before her parents left. He arranges for child care services personnel to visit the house and forwards the additional information to the North Zeeland dispatcher, who wonders why he’s still working a case that he was told to leave in their hands.

So why is Asgar so determined to stay involved? Having learned about Michael’s history and after hearing Iben’s frightened and woeful voice, his compassion comes rushing forth. He believes he’s figured out what’s transpiring, and he wants to make a difference, something he feels he hasn’t been able to do ever since he’s been placed on probation. He doggedly keeps working the case, even reluctantly dragging Rashid into an investigation that’s now verging on employing legally and ethically questionable tactics. He desperately wants to see justice done.

But is Asgar truly following the right course with his behavior? Does the end justify the means? And what if everything is not what it seems – then what? As this tense scenario plays out, the idealistic officer may find himself embroiled in something far more complicated than he ever imagined, a situation that carries consequences he never envisioned. And, for viewers, it’s a riveting experience, since virtually the entire drama plays out over the phone within the confines of the Emergency Services headquarters, the characters’ voices carrying the story through its many emotional contortions.

The Copenhagen Emergency Services office is the site of a gripping drama that plays out entirely over the phone in writer-director Gustav Möller’s psychological thriller, “The Guilty” (“Den skyldige”). Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

For his part, Asgar truly is a deeply committed, compassionate person who’s trying to bring that part of himself out through his work. That’s why he’s so frustrated in his current capacity; he believes he’s not able to apply himself as effectively as he would if he were back out on the streets. So he bides his time, endeavoring to be as compliant and cooperative as possible until he’s allowed to resume his normal routine. But, despite his intent to do so (half-hearted though it may be), he has difficulty following protocol, especially when he’s confronted with a situation like the one involving Iben. He so desperately wants to help that he can’t stand on the sidelines, even if overstepping his bounds complicates his circumstances further.

Asgar believes he can make a difference, so much so that it governs his actions, and those beliefs play a vital role in how events unfold. When tempered with wisdom, it’s entirely possible to see our objectives realized. But there’s another side of the coin; if allowed to become overrun by overzealousness and/or a myopic point of view, we can set ourselves up for trouble, no matter how earnest our underlying intents may be. This is the point where we may fall prey to seeking the fulfillment of our goals at any cost, regardless of the means we employ for achieving them or the consequences that can result. Such situations can bring unintended fallout and distorted aspirations, sometimes with tragic outcomes.

As much as Asgar believes he has circumstances figured out, and as thoroughly convinced as he is about what needs to be done, he’s so fixated on what he seeks to achieve that his vision – and the beliefs that drive it – could well become clouded. He’s unable to seek through the camouflage that has come to obscure his view. And allowing that to happen can cause our perspective to become obstructed, no matter how noble or compassionate we may think we are.

When we set off on such a path, we may quickly find ourselves having to engage in some serious mopping up activities. Escaping such circumstances can be tricky, too, with much depending on how we approach the situation. Should we rigidly stick to our convictions, we’re likely to dig ourselves into even deeper holes. But, if we make the effort to examine things honestly, we may be able to at least stop the bleeding, if not turn conditions around. That might not be easy, but it would certainly be in line with our personal integrity, which can go a long way toward making matters right. It could even lead to redemption, which could offer a new start for ourselves, as well as those impacted.

As he overhears the unfolding of a possible kidnapping, Copenhagen Emergency Services responder Asgar Holm (Jakob Cedergren) plunges into the depths of emotion in the riveting drama, “The Guilty” (“Den skyldige”), available in various home viewing formats. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

As Iben’s story unfolds, Asgar has an opportunity to see how the foregoing dynamics work in a situation like this. However, it also provides him with a lesson that transcends the handling of the current crisis; it gives him insight into his personal circumstances, most notably how to approach his upcoming hearing. And that, in the long run, may prove to be a more valuable learning experience than he ever thought possible.

This chilling tale serves up a taut, edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller about one man’s valiant efforts to aid in the investigation of a possible kidnapping under circumstances where the entire story is far from clear. Told through a series of phone conversations between the officer and his colleagues, the victim and the alleged perpetrator, writer-director Gustav Möller skillfully relies on the sound of his performers’ voices to drive the narrative, forcing viewers to use their own imaginations to visually fill in the gaps, an expert use of Hitchcock’s rule if there ever were one. The result is a harrowing journey into the minds of the characters, as well as the viewers’ own minds, aided by a script loaded with unexpected twists and turns. This captivating offering reaches out and grabs the audience’s attention, never letting go, despite its simple, play-like staging, presenting a gripping story that only gets better the further along it goes. This vastly underrated cinematic knock-out is available for home viewing in a variety of formats.

While “The Guilty” may not have attained widespread notoriety, it certainly captured the attention of critics, film festivals and awards competitions, taking home nominations and honors in a variety of milieus. Of particular note, the picture was named one of 2018’s top foreign films by the National Board of Review. In addition, the film was named the Audience Award winner in the World Cinema – Dramatic category at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, a competition in which it also earned a Grand Jury Prize nomination. But those accolades tell only a part of the story behind the recognition for this well-received, if little-known, offering.

They say there’s a Samaritan in all of us, and that’s comforting to know, especially in an age like ours, where we can use all of the help and cooperation we can get. However, if we allow our convictions to get the better of us, we run the risk of becoming obsessive, even fanatical, and, as history has shown us so many times – including today – that does no one any good, either. Asgar’s story provides us with a cautionary tale that we’d be wise to heed if we want to help our fellow man without creating havoc in the process, showing us that there genuinely are times when “good enough” is indeed “good enough” – even if it doesn’t always seem that way.

A complete review is available by clicking here.

Copyright © 2020, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.