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Stevie (2002)

August 2, 2009

7/10 Tough Loves

A bit long, but a good documentary about an unfortunate life.

Stevie follows director Steve James as he returns to visit Stevie, his former Advocate Little Brother that he lost touch with ten years prior after graduating from college to pursue a career in film. So the two reunite and it turns out that Stevie has spent the last ten years in and out of every foster home in Illinois, not to mention in and out of jail as well. To make matters worse, not long after their reunion, Stevie is charged of sexually molesting his 8-year-old cousin and could potentially face serious jail time.

As you might have already guessed, things aren’t really turning up Stevie.

I don’t know if this movie would be more affecting for parents or…non-parents, but let me tell ya’, it’s a good case against spanking your kids. It’s weird because even though you probably won’t end up liking Stevie per se, a part of you can’t help but feel bad for him. Let me clarify that: you don’t sympathize with Stevie the child molester, you sympathize with Stevie, the man-child that was destined to fail from the get-go.

It’s hard to say whether a person is a product of their surroundings, their community, their parents, the people the associate themselves with, their inherent personality, or a million other things that all play into why everyone’s different from one another. But any way you look at it, Stevie had it bad. Getting raped in foster homes, getting beaten and bloodied by his parents, being abandoned by those same parents, and having every positive influence walk out on him?

Not a recipe for success.

So when Steve James walks back into Stevie’s life to see what’s become of him, it’s hard not to feel at least somewhat sympathetic towards his situation. It’s never really explained why James returns to help Stevie and why he keeps coming back time after time, but one can only assume that he must feel somewhat responsible for not being there for him. He even goes out of his way to clarify that the intention of the movie is not to apologize on Stevie’s behalf, but instead as a way to get him back on his feet and try to make it up to him for being one more person that wasn’t there.

Stevie’s life is a tragic one in almost every sense, but it ends up being the dynamic between he and James, one of the few non-judgmental people in the world that genuinely cares about his well-being, that ends up being the most compelling part of the movie. Stevie runs for about two-and-a-half hours, so it’s kind of a haul, but it’s worth it. It’s a simple movie in execution but extremely complex in its context.

It’s one thing to watch a scripted movie about the importance of friendship, it’s another thing to really see it in action. Movies about real people with real problems; the best kinds of movie there are.

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