- Movie Rating -

The Stone Boy

| April 4, 1984

I have been to funerals that bring out bottled up emotions and old family grudges much like the ones in The Stone Boy.  Tragedy somehow brings those feelings to the surface and the time comes, ready or not, to release them on those to whom we have coveted blame.  What is unique in the Hillerman family is that it doesn’t come out all at once, it comes out slowly over time.  Pain is not always something that is dealt with over the casket.

The tragedy in The Stone Boy occurs one afternoon when Eugene (Dean Cain) and his little brother Arnold (Jason Presson) are out hunting wild duck.  There is an accident when Arnold’s gun goes off and Eugene is killed.  Strangely, Arnold doesn’t run back to the house, instead he sits with his brother’s dead body for several hours before telling anyone.

Arnold becomes the center of gravity for a lot of family ills, bottled up emotions that have festered for years.  The family doesn’t necessarily blame Arnold but it hard to ignore the fact that they are definitely looking for a place to lay their grief.  The father (Robert Duvall) has bottled up a lot of emotions over the years and when it comes time to relate to his youngest son, he doesn’t exactly know how.  The mother seems to think that he is mistreating Arnold and that her husband is not being fair with him.

Eventually, this brings out emotional turmoil in the family who seem to want to push all of their past guilt, their bottled-up grief and their external problems on this poor kid who has really done nothing wrong.  In the wrong hands, this stuff could easily be made into phony melodrama, a TV movie in feature film dress-up, but director Christopher Cain really goes for the hard truth in this situation.  He allows the characters to reveal themselves and their pain through this tragedy so that we see them as individuals.  Some deal with grief in a buried way, as with the father. 

Others want to lash out, as when the sister-in-law comes by and puts her blame on Arnold.  Some just want to exercise their emotional muscles, as with the sleazeball uncle played by Frederic Forrest.  And then there’s the grandfather, played in a brilliant performance by Wilford Brimley as a man whose experience in life and emotional turmoil have given him the necessary armory to deal with all of this tragedy.  His is the best performance in this movie.

The Stone Boy is not an easy film to sit through but I was thankful that the directed was approaching it with a sense of maturity and fairness.  He lets the characters express themselves without rounding them up into a plot that has to be worked through.  This is a film about hard emotions, hard truths, difficult familial unions.  It’s not a perfect film, but I appreciated it a great deal.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Drama