Nearing GraceBased on the Scott Sommer novel Nearing’s Grace, Nearing Grace is the angst-ridden story of a teenager in the ’70s coming to terms with the death of his mother and the idea that maybe he’ll never truly grasp the meaning of life. Oh yeah, and a huge helping of sexual infatuation and frustration thrown in to remind the audience that this is, in fact, high school.

Director Rick Rosenthal may be a fairly prolific television director in his own right, but television sensibilities don’t necessarily work on the big screen, especially for 105 minutes. Penned by Mean Creek scribe Jacob Aaron Estes, this surface tale of heartache and obsession feels a little stilted throughout most of the film, as if the actors are attempting to sound as clever and ironic as their characters are meant to be. Unfortunately, most of the film comes off like television drama: shallow characters expressing deep thoughts with limited emotion.

As lead Henry Nearing, Gregory Smith is a disaffected Zach Braffian everyman the audience is meant to relate to, but there’s something in his sarcastic, depressive demeanor that’s missing. Unlike Kieran Culkin in Igby Goes Down – a strikingly similar and remarkably better film - Smith seems to be trying too hard to keep the audience on his side rather than exploring the possibliity of being the designated anti-hero. This isn’t entirely his fault, though. After the fifth shot where Smith turns in the direction of the camera and gives a half-smile of realization, most audience members are going to feel a little manipulated.

David Morse does his best with what he’s given, but it’s still one of his weaker performances. With the early introduction of Jordana Brewster as the flirtatious Grace Chance, object of Henry’s fantasies, and Ashley Johnson as Merna Ash, his best friend and confidante, it’s clear that this film is headed for dangerously over-worked territories. By the time Henry makes right and comes to grips with himself and his feelings, it feels a little too redundant, like everyone else, including the audience, has been standing by waiting for him at the finish line. You’ve seen this film before, only it was better.

Zach’s Rating: D+
Perfect For: The currently hormonal teenager
Stay Away if: You make a distinction between film and television

To purchase Nearing Grace, visit Amazon
For more information and to view the trailer, visit the film’s homepage

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