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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

When I Find the Ocean (review)

Oh, if only sincerity alone made for good film! Ill-conceived, poorly written, badly acted, and incompetently directed, this is a disaster from start to finish, but it’s hard to impugn the motives of writer-director Tonya S. Holly, making her feature debut. It could have been sweet and poignant and honest, this tale of a young girl in rural Alabama in the 1960s who, unable to get past her own grief, runs away in an attempt to get to the ocean, which her imagination has imbued with the soul of her father, who was lost at sea. Alas that Lily’s obsession with the faraway ocean comes across as so simplistic that it has an autistic quality to it — I honestly believed at first that Lily was meant to be mentally retarded (she isn’t) — and alas that Holly made the extremely poor decision to cast her own inexperienced daughter in the role: it would have a challenge for even the most gifted child actor. And the themes of racism and abuse that spring from Lily’s story are even more awkwardly developed to the point of being laughable, when it is patently obvious that laughter is the last response the film wants to evoke.

MPAA: rated PG for thematic material involving violence and racial slurs, and for language

viewed at home on a small screen

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  • RMS

    My wife and I watched the film last night. Sadly, the reviewer is spot on with analysis of the film. A could-have-been-charming story that had us laughing too frequently. If the actors are as gifted as the writer/producer/director claims in the “Behind the Scenes” then only two thing can account for the movie being as “bad” as it is: script and/or direction. It is telling that financing was off and on prior to a final “go”.

  • CL

    Beg to differ.
    What is about this movie that has made so many reviewers (and opinionators on IMDB) lambaste this movie? My wife and I just watched this on spec, knowing nothing about it, and we enjoyed it. People seem to have a hard time suspending disbelief. Yes, there are some things that are unbelievable or improbable, and anachronistic, but show me a movie that doesn’t have those things. There are a few exceptions. The standard fare of critically acclaimed movies these days has all kinds of impossible things going on ranging from cgi effects to physically impossible premises. That doesn’t usually worry viewers.
    The quality of the acting, filmmaking, and story and subplots did not detract from our enjoyment of the movie.

  • Donni Whitehead

    I just finished watching this heartwarming film. I recommended it to others because of its wonderful message of hope. It is too bad that some critics missed that message.

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