Tuesday, December 01, 2009

"Clancy" — movie review

Movie: Clancy
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. 

Now....

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 Sum
How 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.

27 comments:

SandMan said...

I applaud your commitment to seek out wholesome entertainment, and your unwillingness to mentally check-out simply because the movie was made by good folks.

The points you raise are realistic in view of the extreme wickedness of our society. I have two small children and nothing (literally nothing) scares me more than the thought that some pervert would get to one of them-- God forbid. Few things makes me more angry than when I see a story of one of these monsters on the TV. I know that it all leads up to the eventual return of the Lord Jesus, but perversion seems to keep getting more perverted. I recognize that these people need Jesus the same as I do... I'm thankful for the folks who do prison ministry.

Anyway, no I haven't seen the movie, but the concerns you raise will likely keep me from seeing it.

Brad Williams said...

Dan,

I was feeling the same exact thing as I was reading your review. Unfortunately, I could not help but think, "Okay, this girl hanging with the homeless guy thing is giving me the creeps."

Also, if I wanted to email you to tell you what I think about Sailhamer's book, do you have a public addy? I'd like to get your thoughts on a couple things. If you want, you can email me at hespeaks_at_yahoo.com

DJP said...

Yessir, just click on my profile, and there's my email address. Usual place to look.

It's filops@yahoo.com.

GrammaMack said...

Just reading about it makes me cringe. How could the film-makers have missed it?

Sir Aaron said...

Exactly how many "hobos" are simply down on their luck? Most are mentally ill and almost all of the rest are drug addicts. Then there are those who prefer to live that way. After working in downtown Los Angeles for so many years only a short walk from the infamous skid row, I don't find anything redeeming about being a bum.

Rachael Starke said...

Yep. The minute I read ...and Clancy catches his eye, my Mommy to three young girls radar went from 0 to 100 instantly. This would do my excessively trusting girls more harm than good.

There are only two reasons I can think why no one producing this thought to raise a flag. Either none of the major producers or players have young daughters,

or

their young daughters are blesssed to be surrounded by loving godly men they can and do trust. That's the case with my girls, and I realized a year or two ago that it's both a blessing and a curse. Their daddy, uncle and adopted grandpa love Jesus and would gladly die for them. Their girlfriends' Daddies are the same. It's tremendous. But it's fostered this idea that all men will be their loving protector and friend, and we've sadly had to begin carefully teaching them otherwise.

DJP said...

I don't know, Rachael. Is it Southern culture? The film is a KY production, mainly.

I love a light, deft touch in a movie that compliments viewers by treating them as intelligent. A half-second lingering of a shot, a non-verbal clue from an actor, a subtle bit of dialogue....

But in this case, if they were going to go this way, some ham-fisted overkill would have been in-place. Like Nick himself saying, "Do you know how crazy it is to trust me? You're just lucky it was me; ANY OTHER GUY on the street here would have done things you can't dread in your darkest nightmares," and scared the stuffing out of her.

But even then, the starry-eyed and naive could say "Yeah, but God took care of her, like He'd take care of me if I did that."

So... everybody's comments make me sad, because (as I said) I really think it was a good-hearted movie, and I like a lot about it.

But I have to be honest: from first frame to last of Nick and Clancy being together, the shudders weren't far off.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Haven't seen it, but just reading your review (even before you shared your concerns) gave me the heebie-jeebies.

I hate to be so cynical about people. It's a tough line to walk with our kids - wanting to teach compassion and to give people the benefit of the doubt, but never to trust them in a way that puts yourself at risk. Yikes.

As Sir Aaron already mentioned, most homeless, drifter-types are mentally ill.

When people are at the bottom of society like that, they have nothing to lose, therefore, they might do anything. Why not? What consequence would be worse than the life they're already living?

Susan said...

Rachael said: "It's fostered this idea that all men will be their loving protector and friend, and we've sadly had to begin carefully teaching them otherwise."

Good thing you're teaching them now, Rachael. Such is the sad world that we live in, although....

When I was in kindergarten, there was this one time when I missed my stop while taking the school van home (probably because I was happily chatting with my little friends and was totally oblivious that I had missed my stop). When the van driver turned around to look, he realized that I was the only one left in the van. I thank God even today for that van driver because he did not think about abducting me! Instead, he did the right thing: turned back immediately and carried me up those steep stairs to my home (we lived in a flat in a multi-storied building without an elevator). When he realized that no one was at home, he carried me downstairs again and headed toward the street, where we eventually found my frantic mother. (It was already night when we found her.) This is probably one more reason why whenever I hear about missing children, it really hits me hard. Parents really need to be careful and diligent in teaching their children about the world around them--kids may not always meet a decent people like my van driver....

Susan said...

(Oops, that should say "a decent person".)

SniperedPastor said...

As a dad, I wholly concur with the reaction that everybody had even BEFORE you got to the caveat. I'm thinking, "really, Dan is going to applaud a film that has the most unrealistic scenario in modern American culture? Yikes"

But then you clarified. Terribly sad that we all were there in the same place of protection and concern when the idea was even presented.

sigh.

It's gotta kill the writer/producer that we think such, but, sadly, it is the spirit of the age.

DJP said...

SP: agreed, agreed, and agreed.

/c:

dylansmom said...

I think they did a great job of showing not ALL men, be they strangers to the child or someone they know, are trustworthy.

If you remember the scene where Nick owed that man $200, he said give me the girl and we will call it even.

You know what he wanted her for, to put her into prostitution. Men do that to young girls all the time, and alot of prostitutes started at 12, 13, 14 years old.

He knew he would make that $200 he was owed pretty fast and then everyday after that would be pure profit.

So if you have your young daughters watch this, point that out to them. Say something like, See that man was going to put her into prostitution so you need to be real careful about who you are alone with.

DJP said...

I don't think anything will erase the bad message of Clancy going off all alone with this angry, scrofulous homeless guy and discovering a heart of gold, with a "God will take care of you" dusting on top.

Dan said...

I would have to say that sure this movie is mind-boggling to think of a homeless man Nick is watching over a young girl Clancy for a whole week. I would have to say that this movie is a love and redemptive story of how Jesus Christ can change Nick through Clancy who shared her own version of the scripture to him. She told him that Jesus Christ died for all of our sins including Nick's own sin from the war, and that the only way to be changed is to give yourself up for Jesus Christ. This movie shows that Clancy's purpose was to help Nick forgive himself through Jesus Christ who died for him and his sins no matter where he sinned or how he sinned. Clancy is the kind of movie that points out that no matter if you are homeless, Hobo, or even a little crazy Jesus Christ can change you only if you believe in him and repent unto Jesus Christ who has died for all of those bad sins you might have committed on the Cross. He died for you to have a clean slate and all you have to do is repent and Trust in him no matter how long it might be.

DJP said...

Everything you say is true, Dan, though I have some troubles linking forgiving oneself with the Bible. However, that still leaves the concerns I voiced about the message to little children who mightn't take this as a fair tale that they should never, ever try to enact themselves.

MM said...

I've just watched the movie and I have to say that the hysteria in these comments over the girl and the hobo is thoroughly misplaced, extreme and smacks of witch-hunting. What got me about the movie was the terribly sad and totally unbelievable ending when she died. This made a complete mockery of the entire message, as Nick would never, ever believe anything anyone said to him again after such a tragic outcome.

Such an utterly ridiculous and contrived final ten minutes that I almost switched off in disgust as I could see (who could possibly not?) how it was going to end.

So, far from being a movie about goodness, platonic love for one's fellow man at any age, and hope for the future, this movie turned out to be a message of despair.

DJP said...

Yes, we parents tend to be intense when ridiculously harmful and dangerous messages are sent to our little ones. We'd pretty much die to spare them harm. We'll put you in the "innocent little girls are usually safe with random vagrants" column, if you like.

As to the rest, what you're saying doesn't track. I think you mistake the message of the movie. At the same time, as I said, it did seem an odd twist.

MM said...

There was no cause for your snide comment about "innocent little girls are usually safe with random vagrants". The guy was not a "random vagrant", but an ex-Iraq war soldier who had been badly treated by the authorities following his killing of the woman terrorist and her kid. Far from being a drop-out, we saw how he later managed to pull his life back together DESPITE the hard knocks. You are damning all hobos as perverts! Shocking. Especially when the vast majority of child abuse is known to occur within the home environment at the hands of nice, middle-class parents.

DJP said...

There was every cause for the comment. You are strengthening the impression that you didn't really read the review, nor think about my response to your objection.

Did the little girl know what the random vagrant was? Is it your argument that most little girls would be wise to trust themselves to random vagrants in the hopes that they will be well-meaning angels? Are you a parent? Would you advise parents to train their little children to assume that most vagrants are well-meaning angels in disguise? Is it the rule that vagrants are hard-working, decent, responsible, God-fearing paragons of virtue?

What's "shocking" is the irresponsibility that seems to underly your objection to the unanimous response of parents to the thought of suggesting to any child that what Clancy did in this movie was a wise and safe course

Strangenstein said...

Just watched CLANCY and I have to admit, I enjoyed it. But like others here, I had that nagging feeling about an inappropriate relationship between and adult male and pre-pubescent female. I believe Mr. Moore wrote the screenplay with a pure heart and the best of intentions; as he wrote the scenes, then filmed them, he never saw what we're mentioning because he never intended that. It's a shame that society has come to this.

DJP said...

Yep, I think you're right all-around.

Mary Smith said...

It's not a movie for little children anyway. Abused girls? War veterans scarred by their experiences? And SPOILER WARNING SPOILER WARNING SPOILER WARNING Clancy dies in the end. (SPOILER OVER)Whether little kids would get the wrong idea about strangers or not, it wouldn't be a good idea to show them the film. It's meant to be a heartwarming story for teens and adults who are old enough to handle the mature content and understand that real life doesn't work that way. By the way, I actually know a homeless man who (a, would never hurt a kid and (b, doesn't drink or do drugs.

Sands said...

Hello all - this is Jefferson Moore; I am the screenwriter, director, executive producer (and actor) behind the movie, "Clancy" - which I wrote in '03 and brought to screen in 2008.

Leaving a comment on this site (or any blog site) is a first for me…after 10 years of making feature films, I've learned that there are good reviews, bad reviews, and downright 'unreasonable attack' reviews…so as a practice, we learned over a decade ago to 'never take any of them to heart'.

I was unaware that this particular blog review (or this blog for that matter) even existed. I see it was originally posted in 2009, shortly after 'Clancy' was released to theaters, and that comments as late as 2014 continue to be posted.

The truth of the matter is, this review (and it's comment thread) was brought to my attention by the actress that portrayed Clancy; that actress is now in her 20's and in school at a major university.

(For those of you keeping tabs, she is also an honor student, a socially well-adjusted individual, and a relentlessly devout follower of Jesus Christ that takes part in activities at her campus' Christian Student organization. Furthermore, she has never in her life smoked, drank, cursed, taken drugs, or engaged in inappropriate relationships with members of the opposite sex. She also, though living an independent college life away from home, continues to love, honor and respect her two parents - both of whom are medical professionals)

It is because of this young woman that I am writing this response - because, in speaking with her, I gained the sense that she was deeply affected by parts of the review and many of the user comments that followed. Though she did not say it in so many words, I felt that a body of work she was once proud of was now making her have second thoughts as to whether or not she took part in something that was vile, laden with innuendo, and evil.

No person who strives so hard to be pure of thought and deed should be made to feel that way.

So, as both a professional writer and a director in the movie industry, my first knee jerk reactions were to shout back at this blog and its followers (in all caps, mind you) the anti-wacko slogan: 'GET A LIFE!'…and to further shame individuals for having sick dirty minds and for going to great lengths to purposely twist and misinterpret things just so they could enjoy a few moments on a self-righteous cyber soapbox; I wanted to ask them if they ALSO viewed movies like, 'Heidi', 'Savannah Smiles', 'Miracle on 34th' and shows like 'Full House' - all of which featured prepubescent girls interacting with older male figures not related to them - as cleverly-veiled portrayals of the likes of John Wayne Gacy and Jerry Sandusky.

I wanted to shake my finger and point out that the actress (who was 11 at the time) always had both parents on set, and that they (both churchgoing Believers mind you) saw, close up, every scene that was shot and every reaction their young daughter had - in playing out a script they had both read cover to cover many times.

THOSE were the knee jerk reactions I was ready to launch…but thank God, Jesus taught us there was a better way to express ourselves, so those fleeting moments of 'OH YEAH?' gave way to a pleasant, more loving explanation that I want to lay out before you…NOT to reignite yet another 'online blog snip fight' - that our world today seems to live for and thrive on like it actually provides some form of nourishment - but to make an effort for my friend and colleague, that she might know I made my best attempt to speak on behalf of our film, so that some might see our work through the eyes it was intended for.

Sands said...

(Continued)

In 2003, when I started writing the project that would eventually become 'Clancy', I had one goal, and ONLY one goal, in mind: to use a motion picture format to lay out a step-by-step, uncluttered, easy-to-understand, explanation of how people get to receive the gift of Eternal Life and an eternity in Heaven. I wanted to fill a cinematic void for the lost…THEY were my target. In mine and Kelly's opinion, there had never been, in modern times, a movie that supplied the viewer with this vital information…in 'instruction book' form, without threats of hell and damnation, that let people know that Heaven was not an exclusive club only for the privileged few who had knowledge of a secret password.

With this single goal as my beacon, I set about to build an entire movie around the concept of 'the instruction book'.

Sands said...

(continued)
As an untrained writer, my thought process in how to spin a yarn usually goes through a self-question-and-answer process in my brain to flesh out the initial 'point A to point Z' framework; here is how the building of the 'Clancy' story took place up there:
"What do I want to do?- explain the gospel in a way that's easy to understand - How easy? - with simple language and by going slow - How can you do that without sounding like you're talking down to the lost? - let a child do it, a child never talks down to anyone, but can still get a point across - Who will the child tell this to in the story? - someone who's lost - What kind of people are lost a lot of the time? - homeless people, people in prison, substance abusers - How will this child explain things to this lost person? - in her own child-like words - Like in a sermon or a lecture? - Too formal, too threatening - How about a story book she made herself? - Bingo"

On that framework, we set about layering on supporting characters, settings, backgrounds and plot twists, to make the story not only enlightening but entertaining as well. (A pastor from my childhood told me once, "I'd rather see a sermon than hear one anyday".)

I grew up with and loved movies like the aforementioned 'Savannah Smiles' and 'Heidi', and also 'True Grit'…(not to mention the Mean Joe Greene commercial)…story settings where the big was paired with the small, the strong alongside the weak, the pure of heart right next to the condemned .

Our story was originally conceived as a hermit and a young brother and sister, then a boy whose dad worked at a prison, where he befriended an inmate…the place where we ended up, with an abused girl and a homeless vet, was simply a result of the trial and error process that I'm sure most educated writers have followed themselves many times.

In closing, here is where I should make the commentary about how society and the cesspool media have warped people's minds to the point where they can't enjoy a totally innocently-conceived movie anymore without checking off all possible option boxes that rob every last iota of innocence, optimism, and positive direction from a story - (kind of like what someone does when they concentrate to imagine what another person looks like under their clothes)...

...but I'm not going to make that commentary, because we all know what's what - it's a broken world and we're not in charge of it…He is, and He's promised us He's going to deal with it.

I should also mention, this will be my last blog response ever (although I think I've written enough here for several…sorry) and I don't plan on returning to this particular site to see if I need to respond to someone ELSE who might've said something…because honestly, I'd rather be outside playing with my dogs or going to a baseball game or learning to love better through the homeless outreach where my wife and I volunteer each week

So Clancy, there you go…in the event you should revisit this site to see if any further misunderstandings or misconceptions have been posted about the beautiful thing you did at such a young age…although I hope you won't, because it will mean you have chosen to spend your time on things that are good and lovely and leave the negative to the world where it belongs

May God bless each and every one of you,...and thanks so much, to the reviewer and the commenters, for taking the time to watch our film…regardless of the interpretation you chose

~ Jefferson

DJP said...

As a rule, I don't publish comments on old, old reviews; but taking the last commenter at his word as to his identity, I wanted him to have his say.

As he doesn't solicit response, I'll let both his comment and my review stand, and invite any fair reader to read my review, then his response, and determine for himself the degree to which the latter is an appropriate and fitting response to the actual comments of the former.