BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT
Karen Braswell (Amy Irving) is a single mother. To look after her 11-year-old son Pete, she works as a waitress in a striptease bar. She is haunted by her past. In her dreams, she keeps seeing her father Frank (Donald Sutherland) pushing her mother into their house and locking Karen out. When the door opens again, Mom is dead. Karen’s testimony at the time put Frank behind bars, with only one line on his lips: “I’ll be back.” Karen’s nightmare comes true when Dad gets an early release. After only a few days, the family terminator is at her door. He seems changed and asks his daughter to forget the past. And this seems to work better with the whole village than with Karen. Even her boyfriend Dan is particularly charmed by Frank. When her lover is later found dead, something breaks in Karen and she seeks comfort in her father’s arms. Frank moves in with her and Pete and begins to impose himself on the two. Pete is having fun with his grandfather, and the village community is happy. But can she give Frank the benefit of the doubt?
Director Jonathan Heap drew attention to himself with his short film for television 12:01, which was later made into a film that you can also admire extensively at this festival. His debut is one of those films that starts slowly, then accelerates to a climax that makes the audience tumble off their chairs. His two main actors provide internal fireworks and undercurrent tension. Amy Irving (Crossing Delancey, Carrie, Internal Affairs) plays Karen Braswell, a woman who must get in the ring with the demons of her past. Donald Sutherland (MASH, Novecento, A Dry White Season), whom people sometimes call “Dennis Hopper lite,” is the vengeful manipulator Frank Braswell.