The One-Line Summary: A young man named Jamal (Rob Brown) with a talent for writing befriends a reclusive and hermit-like man who is none other than famed author William Forrester (Sean Connery), a man who wrote one incredibly influential piece of literature and then disappeared but now, having noticed the 16-year-old’s gift, takes him under his wing and teaches him how to find his true voice.
The Two-Line Blurb: Directed by Gus Van Sant, this critically acclaimed film shares its plot with a number of other mentor films, including Van Sant’s own Good Will Hunting (1997), but manages to differentiate itself enough from the pack with its commitment to the premise and its clear love of the craft of writing, something that many seek to do but few truly aspire to reach. Connery, in his 5th decade as an actor, and Brown, in his debut, carry the film equally as their dynamic relationship builds to a touching and insightful conclusion that may be predictable but is wholly satisfying none the less.
The Three-Line Set-up: This moment is about the nature of what a writer is and begins with Jamal, on a dare, breaking into the old man’s apartment, who has a habit of watching Jamal and his friends play basketball from his fifth floor window. Once inside, he is startled by Forrester and runs off, leaving behind his backpack with a journal full of writing samples that impress the old author. Forrester returns the bag later with a challenge to Jamal to write 5000 words on why he should not break into his house, which Jamal completes the next day and from there, a connection is made and a powerful relationship begins.
The Four-Line Moment: Jamal eventually learns of Forrester’s fame and also his desire to remain anonymous while Forester learns of Jamal’s great skill, makes a deal to help him become better as long as he never asks about his personal life. He starts with two typewriters and invites Jamal to sit behind one while he begins tapping the keys of the other, not even looking at the paper. He tells the student that the key to writing is to write the first draft from your heart and don’t think about anything as you go. His fingers never stop moving as he continues to talk to Jamal, and when he’s done, he pulls the paper free and sets it atop Jamal’s still empty sheet, to which the young man gasps at what has been produced in so short a time, effectively teaching him that a writer writes for the love of it, not for the art of it.
The Five-Word Review: Slightly flawed but engrossing film.