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Sympathetic portrait of a paedophile

Come the end of the illegal war in the Middle East, we’ll be turning our attentions back to the home front to once again demonise paedophiles and kiddie-porn scum. Good timing or not, then, for the video/DVD release of Michael Cuesta’s controversial debut feature, a story of a young man’s journey into adulthood that contains a sympathetic portrait of a paedophfle.

Grieving the death of his mother, killed in a road accident on the Long Island Expressway (LIE), Howie (Paul Franklin Dano) has fallen in with the wrong crowd and is steadily falling in love with the gang’s leader, Gary. Unable to talk to his father, a construction boss under investigation by the FBI, Howie opens up his feelings of love, loss and sexual confusion to pillar of the local community and paedophile, ‘Big John’ Harrigan (Brian Cox). Initially, Harrigan is painted as a predatory creature, just as Howie would, under other circumstances, be generalised as a house-robbing hoodlum. The director and co-writer slowly subverts expectations, though, revealing Howie to be a sensitive and intelligent young man and Harrigan a caring and considerate father figure.

Stylistically LIE recalls Larry Clark’s Kids in its gritty depiction of young lives under threat. Like Kids, it’s deeply indebted to the visual power of its photography, which in this case captures the sterile stasis of the suburban living environment and the contrasting speed and violence of the nearby expressway. Unlike Kids, it doesn't go for the easy answers nor does it exploit its subjects. Sensitive issues are dealt with courageously here. which, of course, they won’t be in our continued tabloid treatment of paedophilia. (Catherine Bromley)

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