Miles from Home
Produced by and co-starring Meagan Good and written, directed, produced, and starring another young veteran actor, Ty Hodges, this gritty, grimy, guerrilla indie does just about everything it can to divorce itself from its principal players' child star pasts. At first one could be tempted to say that it tries a bit too hard, what with its salacious grabber of an opening scene that finds teen street hustler Miles Conway (Hodges) turning a trick that becomes violent; harder still, even, with the introduction of the device that is Diablo (Hodges sporting a red, rooster-like mohawk), the on-screen manifestation of our protagonist's darker impulses.
If this sounds like difficult viewing, it is, but there is a method to such apparent madness, and Hodges rewards the patient viewer with a challenging but ultimately absorbing story. As Diablo takes the viewer on a non-linear journey through Miles's life, from his corruption--starting with abandonment by his addict mother, intensifying with his meeting with a prostitution ring leader (an electrifying Tasha Smith)--to possible redemption with free-spirited college student Natasha (Good), Hodges pulls no punches, not only in staying true to the rawness of Miles' circumstances and his utterly confused state of mind but also in depicting the genuine flashes of hope present in his seemingly bleak world. To that end, he also uses the limitations of the rugged DV photography to his advantage, playing up the stark contrasts visually as the film moves from the shadows of Miles's dark profession to the washed-out whites of his moments with Natasha. Like Diablo, the quirky Natasha also initially could be dismissed as contrived construct (she and Miles even have a textbook meet-cute in a library), but like the film as a whole the layers unravel to reveal deeper, genuine, and believable heart--which for all the violence, anger, and darkness depicted in the film is Hodges's boldest and bravest accomplishment of all.
A young thug (Presley Chweneyagae) undergoes a crisis of conscience when a seemingly routine carjacking leaves him with a baby in his care. Sounds like a formulaic, perhaps even treacly, redemption tale, but screenwriter/director Gavin Hood, in adapting Athol Fugard's novel, exercises restraint and achieves a balance that never rings false, wisely trusting his gifted young actors to lend the story believability and, crucially, emotional truth. Chweneyagae is especially remarkable, both believable as a heavy and as the more mature young man he evolves into; equally impressive is the stunning Terry Pheto as a young mother who comes to his aid.