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Atlanta FF: Handsome Harry

May 1, 2010

As part of the Pink Peach film series at the Atlanta Film Festival this year and premiered at Tribeca last year, Handsome Harry is an intriguing take on a man revisiting his past through a road trip visit to friends.

Ex-navy man Harry Sweeney (played by Jamey Sheridan, pictured on the left), visits Thomas Kelley (Steve Buscemi, pictured on the right) who he promises to set things right with an old Navy buddy Kagan. We don’t know what the two did at first, but we know that it is bad enough that Kelley believes he is going to hell when he does. But the question is, which of them was the one that did the most damage?

We follow Sweeney on the road as he visits old Navy friends spread out across the country, each clearly changed because of what they did against Kagan that night. Years later, the tension between characters is picked up as if there had been no time apart. But more intriguing is the character development of Sweeney as we begin to question his motivations for finding out the truth of what happened that night.

Navy buddies are an all-star cast of great actors each with strong performances for the small amount of time we spend with them on-screen. We first meet Peter Rheems (John Savage) who lets us in on the fact that Kagan was attacked because he was gay, an issue Rheems clearly still cannot come to terms with years later as his homophobic rage sends Kelley out the door. Prof. Porter (Aidan Quinn) gives the best performance of the bunch with his telling inability to forgive the man he once was to the point of denying he ever even participated in the Navy. Gebhart (Titus Welliver) has turned to God to silence his own guilt.

But the film is not as much about the road trip that we take along with Sweeney but the examination of middle-aged male sexuality and a dawning realization of repressed homosexual tendencies that once unveiled when David Kagan (Campbell Scott) finally enters the scene, are somehow diminished by his presence on-screen. The film works in its subtextual understanding of how the past continues to haunt these men for anti-homosexual choices made but when it veers into a new direction, the quiet understanding of what this means in their lives is loudly interrupted with blaring music and strange leaps of forgiveness.

The film had a limited theatrical release that began April 16 and played Atlanta Film Festival April 17.

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