Antwone Fisher

dir. Denzel Washington

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My treacleometer went on high alert when I heard the story behind this one. Antwone Fisher was a security guard at Sony Pictures when a big-shot producer, impressed with Fisher's life story, decided to have him write a screenplay about it. I clenched my press kit, thinking of synonyms for "maudlin."

Although not a great movie, it is actually refreshingly restrained. Denzel Washington directs with the same dignity and craft that he brings to his work as an actor. The performances are realistic but not self-consciously so, the filmmakers avoid drowning the film in syrupy music, and the production design gives us deep, dramatic settings without stealing focus. These are all small miracles, considering the genre.

Even more surprising, the story is told without much narrative embellishment. It's not buffed to death. Abused and abandoned as a child, Antwone makes peace with his past, but as in life there are questions left unanswered, relationships that can't be fixed, experiences best forgotten. In the end, he's not a hero, just a guy who decided not to be a victim of his past. In a pop culture bloated with vulgar sentimentality, Fisher's ordinary story stands out as one worth telling.