Monday, October 4, 2010


In a world where many families are looking for family friendly movies it is nice to see a mature, coming of age love story like Upside. Upside is not just a coming of age love story though, it is a story where a young man has to come to discover his own purpose, his own journey, a journey where faith comes in and brings about an unexpected change.

Upside is the first feature film by Spyplane Films. Starring Randall Bentley as Solomon White, best known for his role in the television hit series Heroes. Solomon is a high school senior who is a stand out lacrosse player. He is on the radar of numerous Ivy League schools and the Naval Academy. He is trying to break away from a former girlfriend, having some difficulty in class, having trouble with his single mother who is overbearing, and looking for shortcuts not only in school but in life. He has a tragic accident while playing a game and his vision is impacted. After the accident he sees everything upside down and has horrendous headaches. While attending a public speech given by 20-year-old Wren Woods, played by Leah Sims, he ends up developing a friendship with her where he not only takes on a journey where he is searching for meaning, but a journey where he searches to find himself. Along the way is a literature teacher, Mrs. Buck, played beautifully by Taylor St. Clair. Mrs. Buck is a teacher who cares, and who goes out of her way to help her students. How Solomon responds to those who become a part of his life, the decisions he makes and who he listens to will determine his future.

Upside lacks in a lot of areas, among those is a cast which can deliver the goods to make this a very good movie. The direction given by Ken Horstmann, who also wrote the script, does as much as is possible with the talent he has. I was impressed by the talents of Bentley and especially that of Taylor St. Clair. While other actors do a decent job, especially for a film of this nature, it is subpar. There are times the plot gets a little preachy, and the movie certainly has a religious intent. On this point, notice I said a little preachy. I actually appreciated the reality of the movie and it focuses on a pretty good story. While religion plays a part, it is not done in a threatening way; it is respectful and causes the viewer to reflect without feeling like they had just attended a Baptist Revival.

Horstmann does a good job at developing the story and moving it along. This is the type of story that reminded me of a television series, and in fact, would make a pretty good series, especially with the New England feel. It is also quite interesting because both primary characters have what many would consider a disability. While White has an injury brought on by a sporting accident, his love interest in the story, Wren Woods is permanently and totally blind. The relationship that develops is based on numerous things, and this is a good reminder of what can develop in real relationships off screen. It is also nice to see these age groups presented in a positive way, with potential to do the right thing.

While Upside has as backdrop, people of faith, it is presented in a respectful way. Solomon White, despite some mistakes, a temper, and an attitude at times, is deep down a good kid. We see this especially when given the opportunity to cheat on his girlfriend on a college visit, yet he chooses to remain loyal. There are other examples we see illustrated such as a teacher who is devoutly Christian, yet she respects the public school setting she is teaching in. We also see a real and non threatening way how one can live their faith, and how it can bring about needed change.

Upside is a good first effort. I wouldn’t mind showing it to my family, and I would think many families where faith is important will enjoy this DVD. There is some good advice for those in the age group this film is intended for. While not a great film, it is a little better than average, and certainly better than many religious themed movies due to the respect it gives the viewer. I would have liked a better developed script, and a little more focus on the technical aspects of the film. While not a film I would want to watch over and over again, I would consider renting the DVD and enjoying it at home with the family. What you decide to do, well that is up to you. There is an upside though; you will get some good themes and decent reminders in this family friendly movie that not all has to end up bad, and that some of those searching for answers, may just find them.

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