OCFF Movie Review: ‘God Bless the Child’ Examines The Effect Of An Absentee Parent

Greetings again from the darkness. Given its success at other film festivals, I was anxious to catch up with this one it at my hometown Oak Cliff Film Festival. What I can report is that my reaction to the film is not in line with that of others. While I recognize the purity and genuine emotions of the characters, and appreciate the cinema verite’ style, I could never shake the feeling that I was simply watching someone babysit.

The movie begins with young Eli diligently practicing his trampoline flips. His tenacity is admirable, as is his commitment to the goal. We next see his mom speeding off down the street, and we come to realize she has deserted Eli and his 4 siblings – 3 younger brothers and an older sister.

What follows is “a day in the life” of five kids who clearly have received less-than-stellar parenting throughout their lives, and have adapted by 13 year old Harper taking on the role of surrogate mother as the boys do what boys do … playing, fighting, eating, washing the dogs, exploring the area and arguing over Superman vs Spider-man.

Each of the boys has their own distinct personality, but it’s Harper whom we most feel for. She is caring, loving, funny and strong in an unwelcome role to which she has resigned herself. Any chance at being a normal teenager was lost years ago, though a somewhat heavy-handed scene in the park ensures no viewer misses this point.

The five actors share the same last name (Graham) and I read somewhere (though unconfirmed) that they are co-director Machoian’s real family. There is no denying that we feel for kids and understand that their future is as bleak as their present. The film does bring notice to the relentless challenges of parenting, and how desertion of said responsibility is inexcusable. The film ends with a very touching scene – one that only makes us hope that somehow these kids experience better days in the future.

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