The Lair family had a father who hurt for the brokenness in his family, who carried his family through hard times, and who mapped out and provided a journey through which his family could find healing from their pain, forgiveness from their guilt, and restoration to a life free of brokenness.

(2004) Film Review

This page was created on October 25, 2004
This page was last updated on December 11, 2004

Review by Darrel Manson
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Review by Elisabeth Leitch
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Trailers, Photos
About this Film pdf file

Dial up modems will take a few moments


Directed by Jordan Roberts
Written by Jordan Roberts

Cast (in credits order)
Michael Caine .... Henry Lair
Jonah Bobo .... Zach Lair
Josh Lucas .... Jason Lair
Glenne Headly .... Katrina
Christopher Walken .... Turner Lair
David Eigenberg .... John

Produced by
Mark Gill .... executive producer
Julie Kirkham .... producer
Elliott Lewitt .... producer
Ron Smith .... executive producer
Bob Yari .... executive producer

Cinematography by Michael Grady
Film Editing by Françoise Bonnot

MPAA: Rated R language.
Runtime: USA:85 min

For rating reasons, go to FILMRATINGS.COM, and MPAA.ORG.
Parents, please refer to PARENTALGUIDE.ORG

Trailers, Photos
Around the Bend
Various Artists - Soundtrack - 2004

1. Opening - David Baerwald
2. Roll Away the Stone - Leon Russell
3. Daddy's Song
4. Bags - David Baerwald
5. Even a Prisoner Can Dream
6. Carmelita - Warren Zevon
7. Major - David Baerwald
8. On the Road Again - Bob Dylan
9. Hi Ho Silver - Fleetwood Mac
10. Old Shoes
11. Staircase/Turner's Death - David Baerwald
12. Song for You - Leon Russell
13. Some Day When You're Young Again
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“Around the Bend” is inspired by the relationship between writer-director Jordan Roberts and the absentee father he barely knew. It tells the story of four generations of men who are suddenly brought together by the chance to uncover the truth about their family’s past. The journey will take them out on the road to a world full of surprises -- some comic, some dramatic, and all of them personal.

Jason Lair (Josh Lucas) is a simple man with a simple wish: a normal life. This isn’t an easy goal for the mild-mannered bank employee: Jason is newly separated from his wife, who has left him to care for their six-year-old son Zach (Jonah Bobo) while she paints in Nepal, and his ailing grandfather Henry (Oscar winner Michael Caine), a former archaeologist close to death, is investigating alternative rituals for his impending funeral (“I’m not going in the ground!” he protests.) So when Jason’s estranged father and Henry’s son Turner (Oscar winner Christopher Walken), whose checkered past includes exploits from the musical to the criminal, pays the family an unexpected visit, nothing is ‘simple’ or ‘normal’ in Jason’s life anymore.

In the coming days, the somewhat reluctant Lair men will embark on a trip not only through the mythic beauty of the Desert Southwest, but across the family’s own rocky emotional landscape. Forced together by a deep loss, these very different people find a great deal along the way -- devastating secrets, amazing discoveries and, just as Henry wanted... each other.

Review by

Pastor, Artesia Christian Church, Artesia, CA

Darrel has an incredible love and interest in the cinematic arts. His reviews usually include independent and significantly important film.
Henry Lair was an archaeologist. Even on his deathbed he keeps wanting to go with his grandson Jason and great-grandson Zach on one last dig. When his long lost son (and Jason's long lost father) shows up, Henry lays a plot to send them on a road trip to spread his ashes at key places along the way. Will the trip give these men the chance to get beyond the past?

Around the Bend is in some ways a tweaking and retelling of Jesus' parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). There are a number of small connections to the parable for those who look for them. In that parable, a man has two sons, the younger one takes his share of the inheritance, leaves home, and squanders his money on high living. The older brother stays home, working for his father. When bad times come to the younger brother, he resolves to go home to ask his father for a job. Before he even gets to the door, the father greets him and starts planning a welcome home party. The older brother comes home to see this and is distraught that his father is treating this worthless son so well.

The parable is tweaked by the film by giving the character of the older brother in the parable to the son of the prodigal in the movie. Jason is the one who has stood by his grandfather in times of need. Not out of obligation, but out of love for the man who raised him, since his father has been out of his life since he was a small boy. Jason is extremely resentful of Turner's presence. Jason has considered Turner dead for many years.

The story also moves beyond the parable, giving us a look at the parable's two brothers after the father's death. Will the father's love for each of them give them enough in common to hold them together in spite of their animosity? Can the "older brother" even accept the returned prodigal? Will the prodigal change his life with this new opportunity?

In the film Turner, Jason and Zach end up heading out to Henry's old haunts in an ugly and ancient VW bus. Henry has planned the route, giving them places of meaning to spread a spoonful of his ashes. Along the way walls are built, torn down, and rebuilt. It's not easy to overcome the years of separation.

At one of the stops, some old Native American ruins, after spreading the ashes, Turner reminisces with Jason about being on digs with Henry. As Turner put it, "He liked to dig up old shit." And as they travel together, we see that Henry has designed the trip to dig up the emotional "old shit" of the family's life. It is only through that digging that there can be any hope of forgiveness or reconciliation.

Such emotional archaeology is not easy. The things found may be treasure or may be trash. It may help the men understand each other or may drive them further apart. Neither of the adult men wants to make this trip or go through the emotional artifacts of their lives. Jason keeps wanting to know why Turner abandoned him and never made contact with him or with Henry. Turner keeps wanting to live in the present, not looking back at the mistakes in the past that are over and gone. But out of respect and love for Henry (plus some financial incentive from Henry's estate) they keep at it until they come to the real issue that divides them, one that Jason doesn't even know about.

This story is about more than getting to know each other, even more than being able to reestablish a family bond. It is a story about how one forgives others and how one forgives oneself. It is a story, in the end, that reminds us that even unforgivable actions need to be dealt with. The injuries of the past live inside both the injured and the one doing the injury. It is only through honestly dealing with these pains that forgiveness in some form can be found.

Around the Bend reminds us that the pains and animosities that we harbor in our lives do not have to stay there. There's plenty of digging for us to do.

Blog with Darrel Manson
Elisabeth Leitch is a graduate of the University of California San Diego with a BA in Literature-Writing. A person who has always loved movies, she never ceases to be amazed with the way movies impact viewers by both reflecting and asking questions about the culture and world in which we live. Currently, Elisabeth spends her days working in a local bookstore and seeking what God has in store for her future. She has also worked as a reporter/writer for the Los Alamos Monitor and the New Mexico Business Journal.
From the moment we are born until the moment we die, life is a journey. More than just the present, it is everything that is our past and whatever could be, might be, ought to be our future, as well. It is the good and the bad, sometimes slow, sometimes fast, sometimes dangerous, sometimes boring, but always moving forward onto the next day, the next year, the next milestone. Sometimes, however, it seems that journey must stop. Something interrupts, something stops us in our tracks, and all we can do is look back at the journey that is behind us and ask ourselves what it is that has been driving our lives and defining who we are.

In the movie Around the Bend, three men and one boy must face this journey called life: its good times, its bad times, and the reality that their journeys have intersected. With the patriarch of the Lair family on his deathbed, Around the Bend begins with four generations of men being brought together for the first time since Turner (Christopher Walken) abandoned his son Jason (Josh Lucas) and left him to be raised by his father Henry (Michael Caine). For Jason's six-year-old son Zach, it is the first time he has met the grandfather he thought was dead. For Jason, the reunion is awkward, unexpected, unwanted. For Turner, it is simply something he has to do, quickly, not dealing with more than the present demands, then ready with a planned exit. For Henry, however, it is not only his dying wish but his desire for a restoration and a healing that he has no intention of allowing to die along with him.

So, in the hours before his death, Henry ensures that the remaining Lair men will take one last journey together; instead of asking for a normal funeral, he turns the scattering of his ashes into a road trip which will take his son, grandson, and great-grandson to the places that meant something to him during his life. More than just a look back at his own life, however, Henry also sets Turner and Jason up for an experience in which they must confront the events that have defined their lives and decide if those are the events that they want to continue to define who they are.

Taking the three Lair men to sites clearly centered on times of joy and love shared with others, Henry prods Turner and Lucas to let those kinds of moments define their lives. Leading Turner and Lucas to a site that embodies the guilt, shame, and resentment that rest between them, Henry's words telling Turner to confess what happened there highlight how much guilt and pain can define who we are; then, in his note telling Jason to forgive Turner, Henry speaks to the freedom that rests in forgiveness. While the journey is difficult, messy, and one that neither Turner nor Jason particularly want to face, they make it to the end and continue on, the truth of the brokenness within and between them brought to the surface, forgiveness bringing them together and filling the holes that had been inside them for so many years.

While Around the Bend is no action packed suspense, no sensational new story that no one has ever heard of before, and no laugh-aloud comedy that leaves you rolling in the aisles, the story presented in Around the Bend is both unique and powerful in that it is so real. It portrays a journey of self-discovery and healing, but it refuses to do so through fake monologues and sappy emotional confessions that occur only in the movies. Between Turner and Jason, the discomfort and strain reflected in all of their actions reflect the pain and complication of damaged relationships with the assistance of very few words. As the pain between them slowly begins to come to the surface and fall away, they do not waste time with words they don't need to say, but simply continue on their trip, more at ease with themselves and consciously choosing to continue on and help each other on the journey ahead. Dealing with a situation that is in and of itself strange, the story and the actors also portray the subtle kind of comedy that cannot help but surface in the day-to-day strangeness of trying to get through and deal with life.

More than just addressing the pain and struggle of a son estranged from a father, however, Around the Bend also truly hits a nerve that connects with the pain and regret that dwell in so many relationships of all kinds. It reveals the toll pain can take on the lives of both a person who has been hurt and the person who has hurt him or her. It speaks to the need to heal people in pain and restore broken relationships. Most of all, it speaks to the truth that the pain and hurt of our past need not be things that define us for the rest of our lives and that we need not overcome it all on our own.

On this journey that is each of our own lives, the reality is that we all have things that we regret, things that weigh us down with guilt, things that fill us with shame. Like any trip, life isn't all Disneyland vacations and Caribbean cruises. Life is good one minutes, and then five minutes later it is horrible. Life is fun, and then two days later, it is unbearable. No matter how hard we try to live a "good" life, we will let ourselves and others down. Fortunately, as the Lair family discovers, we need not let our downfalls define who we are or the life we live. By recognizing that we can be forgiven and by forgiving the things and people that define our brokenness, we can let every memory of hurt and pain go and instead choose to define ourselves and our lives by old and new memories of love, joy, and family.

While this life may be a long, winding, bumpy journey, the reality is that more than a journey along a road, this life is a journey of people, of intersecting lives and actions, of family, of friends, and of helping each other along the way. In the same way that the Lair family had a father who hurt for the brokenness in his family, who carried his family through hard times, and who mapped out and provided a journey through which his family could find healing from their pain, forgiveness from their guilt, and restoration to a life free of brokenness, we too have a Father and a Savior ready to carry us through hard times, ready to help us come to terms with the things that fill us with pain, and just waiting to offer us forgiveness and set us back on a journey defined by love and joy instead of pain and emptiness. The question is: Are we willing to trust and follow the His map or not?

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