The Myth of Fingerprints

Family wounds cut deep in this over earnest but promising debut film from writer and director Bart Freundlich, who yields the secrets of his characters slowly but with uncommon subtlety and grace. The outstanding cast includes Noah Wyle, branching out from TV's E.R. with admirable restraint. Wyle is strikingly good as Warren, the son who visits his dad, Hal (Roy Scheider), and his mom, Lena (Blythe Danner), in Maine for the first time in three years. "It's been long enough," Warren tells his shrink, "that I can't quite remember that I shouldn't go."

Hal, a misanthrope, is hardly delighted to see his clan for Thanksgiving. Son Jake (Michael Vartan) tows along the outspoken, sexually avid Margaret (Hope Davis). Daughter Mia (Julianne Moore) brings Elliot (Brian Kerwin), a therapist boy toy. The extraordinary Moore finds the pain and terror behind Mia's wounding wit, as daughter Leigh (Laurel Holloman) hits on Elliot and Warren woos lost love Daphne (Arija Bareikis). This engrossing blend of humor and heartbreak only hints at the causes, from betrayal to child abuse, of this family's dysfunction. Hang on. Attention is richly rewarded.

From The Archives Issue 398: June 23, 1983