Length: 119 min
Rated: [Phillips family rating: PG]
Starring: Jefferson Moore, Christina Fougnie, Tom Luce, Keith McGill, James Bailey
Director: Jefferson Moore
Producers: Jefferson Moore, Kelly Worthington Moore
Screenplay: Jefferson Moore
My dear wife Valerie shares review-credits; I was only able to sort out what I thought of this movie through talking with her afterwards. I'll explain.
Viewed one way...The plot (no major spoilers). If you take this movie as what it clearly is meant to be, Clancy is a heart-warming story of redemptive love. Viewed that way, it is a lovely and fairly well-told tale of Clancy (Christina Fougnie), a twelve-year-old girl who is abused at home by the mother she resolutely loves and forgives. When she learns that the authorities are about to part her from her drunk, immoral, druggie mom, Clancy leaves home — but just so that her mother can get her act together. Then she plans to return and be with her mom, for whom she continues to pray.
In fact, Clancy prays a lot, childlike and sincere prayers ending with "and it's in Jesus' name I pray, amen." On leaving, she prays (to a statue of Jesus, ugh) that God will send His angels to watch over her. Shortly, as if in answer to prayer, Clancy encounters Nick.
Nick (Jefferson Moore, who also wrote, produced, and directed Clancy) is an angry-looking, scruffy street-guy. We see he has a friendly relationship with a neighborhood police officer and a kind of a job... and Clancy catches his eye. Seeing she's alone, he takes to watching over her. She sees that he's following her, but (we later learn) decides he has a nice face, and doesn't worry about him.
Through circumstances I won't detail, Nick agrees to watch her for a week. They're forced to leave the town in which they meet (Clancy is filmed in Kentucky and Indiana), and hold out together in a shack. At first, Nick is crusty and resistant, while Clancy is loving and trusting. Over time, they bond. Clancy shares her faith with him, and in one sweetly-done scene even lays out a decent 12-year-old's version of the Gospel. (I.e. it ain't Calvin's Institutes, but for a kid's telling, it gets the message out.)
The dénouement contains a couple of sharp twists and turns, but all ends with a redemptive takeaway.
The movie. Clancy is not as ambitious as another indie film we considered recently, Pendragon. It doesn't have Pendragon's amazing sets, scenery, wardrobes, music, nor scope. At the same time, Clancy also lacks Pendragon's weaknesses: the acting in Clancy ranges from fair to quite good, and the plot's progression is coherent and focused.
The first three scenes adeptly lay out the major players, and sow the seeds for the entire story. A nice and complex tension is constructed, and the main characters all are given decent, layered backstories. You do get a feel for the players, and care about the central protagonists. It has a professional feel — not de Mille, but far from a high school crew with a camera, either.
There are however a couple of gaffes. After a few days on the road, Clancy is still dirt-free and clean-haired. Oops. And in the end scene, a corpulent character loans slim Nick some clothes, and there are jokes about how they're too loose — er, except they aren't. They fit perfectly. Oops.
Plus a couple of plot-developments will probably have you saying, "Wait, with a little girl in the shack, why would they ____? How come she wasn't even _____, and then suddenly she ____?" But they're plot-tricks, not sinking to the level of being insulting.
Sum: viewed this way, it's a nice film, well-done, telling a decent story with a good message. It is, as I said, a lovely picture about how a sweet little child with simple faith and a basic grasp of the Gospel can, through love, touch and change the hurt, angry, and alienated.
Who would watch it? Valerie and I enjoyed it, but won't show it to our boys (see below). A youth (jr. high and above) group, or young adults, during an evening get-together? Sure. Fellowship meeting at church, say in a long New Year's Eve fellowship? Sure.
The producers (official site) mean this to be used as an outreach film, and have produced a study guide to go with it, with a lot of Scripture references and specific portions of the film.
Viewed another way...Everything I just wrote is true, and is how the film struck me — on one level.
The trouble is that this whole way of viewing the film depends on one giant leap: the leap that the viewer must make when Clancy first joins up with Nick. We've been given the impression that Nick is basically a good guy run into hard times. This is skillfully done, through a vignette revealing that a neighborhood policeman clearly trusts and thinks well of Nick, and feels sorry for him rather than cynically suspicious of him.
Yet there it is: an innocent, naive, pretty young girl with a Teddy Bear is suddenly palling around with, camping with, playing with, being alone with, and sleeping next to a hulking, glowering, grim-faced, scrofulous-looking homeless man. In real life, 99.99999% of the time, this would not end well.
And as a parent who once had a little bitty daughter, I could not shake that brr-r-r!-factor, the whole time. I'd made the leap, but I remained conscious that I had made it. Some of the "bonding scenes" between Nick and Clancy, filmed exactly the same way with the same actress in 10 years, would have been "falling-in-love" scenes. It made me uncomfortable. Repeatedly. Right to the end scenes.
Such are the times we live in. Forty or fifty years ago, when hobos were seen as noble souls, and perversions of all kinds were under strong negative social consensus, it might have been different. Plus, the actress who plays Clancy actually isn't a little girl; she's a very young lady. Scene after scene, I cringed inside — plainly seeing the filmmakers' good-hearted intent, but still fighting the shudder.
Every parent knows that kids believe movies. They imitate what they see. God forbid that any little kid would imitate what Clancy did.
Just think: suppose even one little girl saw this movie and thought, "If I leave home and pray that God will send His angels to watch over me, then maybe He'll send me someone like Nick. If I think he has a nice face, I can trust him and love him and play with him and go places alone with him, and maybe I can win him to Jesus" — what a tragedy that would be.
Kids are horrible judges of character, and they do want to trust strangers; and we live in a world where kids should not trust strangers, and must (sadly) be raised to distrust and avoid all strangers. While the message Clancy wants to preach is redemptive, straight and pure, I fear the side-message that the story itself conveys, however unintentionally.
So if I had little girls, much as I hate to say it, I would not show them Clancy. I don't even particularly want my ten-year-old boy to see it (he'd think it was far too talky, anyway). You could give a half-hour talk before and after, but the evocative effect of a movie can bypass the best-reasoned lecture.
In SumHow Clancy strikes you depends on how you view it. Seen as a redemptive tale of innocent love and childlike faith, it is touching and decently-made.
Whether that is your dominant impression of the movie depends on how you are struck by the image (and unintended message) of an innocent young girl trustingly going off with a homeless man, with happy result.