EDGE OF THE WORLD
*½ (out of ****)
The answer to everything in Edge of the World is to send a prayer to the big man upstairs. This isn’t surprising, as director Randy Redroad’s film is one of many recent, faith-based cinematic efforts (many of them well-meaning but dubious), but it does remind one that such a concept onscreen is often a way for the filmmakers to dodge what really matters in their storytelling for the purpose of conveying a message. The ways in which the screenplay for this film, written by Charla Driver, Colin Holmes, and Richard W. Munchkin, attempts to do just that are often frustrating.
That frustration lies at the very heart of this particular movie, which takes place entirely (with the exceptions of a few flashes back in time to some other location) within Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, a camp of sorts that exists in real life and to which the film is dedicated. The ranch houses at-risk children who, due to whatever extenuating circumstances, cannot live at home with their parents. In addition to following a few of the minors, the film primarily latches onto Coach Davis (Trevor St. John), who himself is dealing with some unspoken grief and channels it into a gruff-but-fair kind of leadership.
He coaches the kids in running track. Willy (Juan Martinez) has lost the remaining member of his family who could have cared for him. Jay (Jonathan Daviss) left the scene of a crime he committed, and his truck-driving father felt it was best to send him to a place where he could receive some form of parenting. Jeremy (Will Meyers) was living on the streets with his mother (played by Mollie Milligan) until her drug habit was too debilitating to care for him any longer. There are others, too, with less defined issues, but the filmmakers’ main concern is not what toll these familial issues might have had on these kids.
The attitude toward these kids on the part of the adults around them, remarkably, is one of distrust and unrealistic expectations of betterment. It pushes so hard on this concept that, at some point, we start to realize that the filmmakers simply want to place the onus on these kids to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and march on. The kids’ performances are untested and more than a bit imprecise, and a bizarre flirtation between Willy and Megan (Megan Dalby), another resident whose mother was too young to care for her after giving birth, ultimately seems to exist only to be on the rocks later on.
The adults generally fare better, especially in the case of Richard T. Jones, good as the ranch’s Chaplain Jacobs. The character exists, of course, to give dime-store philosophy to others, but the actor commits to the sincerity of the part. St. John is also solid as Davis, though the coach himself gets some romantic tension, too, with the ranch counselor (played by Stephanie Felton) that never rises above one scene of one-sided flirtation. Some expected melodrama occurs elsewhere, too, such as various members of the track team quitting for some reason or another. It often occurs because said members feel they must apologize for their uncontrollable situations, a feeling that Edge of the World often reinforces. That comes across as quite dishonest.
(Review by Joel Copling)