Pure Movie Review

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If Oscars were given out on a worldwide basis, 12-year old Harry Eden, the emotional core of this penetrating study of the family side of the drug culture in London, would win it hands down. His shadings of harsh disappointment amid valiant efforts as family caretaker come from intuition of the highest level.

His character's situation begins with a shocker. It's morning, and 10-year old Paul (Eden) is putting breakfast together for mom, who's a late sleeper. The last thing he prepares for the tray is a hypodermic needle with mom's fix, or "gear," as she calls it. What a good and thoughtful boy. Only, when Mel (Molly Parker) discovers what her eldest son has done, she's none too happy about it, precocity and thoughtfulness be damned.

But, being alarmed by her boy's involvement isn't enough to make her quit. Now that she knows he knows, however, she does try. She has Paul lock her in her room while she goes cold turkey, and he resists the pleas and demands she warned him she'd make. He's stalwart, courageous, and upstanding against his mother's screams to be let out of her room, her cajoling, her threats, her accusations. Only it's more than an overnight task, and when Paul is drawn away from the house by an urgent need elsewhere, resolve turns to failure. Boyfriend Lenny (David Wenham) shows up to scoop Mel back into his world of the quick fix, and he sees to it that she stays stoned and dependent.

Paul picks up on a friendship with Louise (Keira Knightley), a wispy restaurant waitress who treats him pretty much as an equal. But, she's a wastrel herself, and fades from his scene. The central drama revolves around the threat of Mel's parents (Geraldine McEwand and Karl Johnson) trying to take custody of Paul away from his junkie mom. This brings in welfare services for a contest over Paul, while this determined kid rats Lenny out to Detective Inspector French (Gary Lewis). Together, they attempt to catch Lenny red-handed in a drug deal.

Director Gillies MacKinnon's sordid picture of drug-influenced life in the East-end of London is a derivative look into the wasting disease of addiction as it affects otherwise decent people -- something we've seen done better. But, by centering on the chronic presence of drugs as something kids can't avoid, and the portrayal of boyhood suffering by this amazing young actor, it breaks out of the ordinary for the genre. Through him, we develop sympathetic regard for mom, as well -- a part agonizingly better portrayed by Parker than written by Alison Hume.

As a fan of Knightley, it's her presence here that drew me to this, but it's Eden who makes the lasting impression.

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Pure Rating

" OK "

Rating: NR, 2002

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