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Freddie Highmore and Golden Globe winner Ving Rhames are unforgettable in Athol Fugard's searing coming of age masterpiece set in apartheid-era South Africa. On a rainy afternoon in his mother's tea house, lonely 17 year-old Hally and Sam and Willie, two middle-aged black servants, share idyllic memories of their lifelong friendship. But when Hally learns that his invalid alcoholic father is coming home from the hospital, he unleashes his resentment and rage on Sam and Willie with devastating consequences.
There's been several versions of Anthol Fugard's Tony winning play "Master Harold and the Boys" since its debut in 1982, one of the main challenges making a feature film would have to be keeping the intimacy the play had. While the play was two characters and one setting the film expands on both which was a risky move to say the least but I thought the film-makers did a marvelous job introducing a few new characters to the fold while staying true to the original story and maintaining the dramatic effect.
The story is about Harold, a conflicted teenager struggling with a difficult home life and an alcoholic father. For many of his years, he has turned to the family's black servant Sam for friendship and understanding. As he has started to realize that the world is filled with hatred and casual racism, his relationship with Sam and Willie has begun to evolve in new ways. When his father decides to come home from the hospital ahead of schedule, Harold is worried that the same fighting, drinking and abuse will start all over again. Since he can't take his true feelings out on the person responsible he instead lashes out at Sam.
In any character-driven film like this it's very important to have the right cast and I do not think they could of chosen a better one here. Freddie Highmore brings all the frustration, confusion and anger needed for his role as Harold, this is a young actor that has a very bright future ahead of him. Ving Rhames is also incredible as Sam and the two together are a joy to watch.
The first thirty minutes or so of the film are used to set up the characters and story and to show the friendship Harold and Sam have built. after Harold finds out his dad is coming home from the hospital and he takes his anger out on Sam the film shifts in tone. The final act is both powerful and captivating making this a fantastic adaptation to film as well as a wonderful drama every fan of the genre should not miss. Everyone involved in the film should be proud of the accomplishment here, I cannot recommend seeing this amazing piece of cinema enough.
Released by Image Entertainment
***** Out Of *****