The Parts You Lose (2019)

Directed by Christopher Cantwell

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In The Parts You Lose a young boy, Wesley (Danny Murphy) who feels outside of things stumbles across a convict in hiding, and they develop a nice little friendship.  It’s a modest film that leans into certain tropes and cliches, dotted on the edges with tangential characters who can feel a little too predictable or nasty for the sake of plot movement, and yet there is a gentle warmth to the relationship at the center.

Wesley lives in a wintery, desolate North Dakota town with his caring mother, Gail (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and less than savory father Ronnie (Scoot McNairy).  He’s deaf and is mocked for being so at school, with a kid who repeatedly wipes snot in his hair and ignites the laughs of the cafeteria each time he does it.

When Wesley finds a near-death fugitive (Aaron Paul) unconscious in the snow, he gives him shelter in a large barn on his property.  From there the fugitive becomes a sort of guardian angel, doing the things you anticipate a guardian angel might do for a young, impressionable, bullied kid.  He helps him stand up for himself, he plays games with him, and he tells him stories that always bear metaphorical significance to whatever is at hand.  

Much of this feels a bit too neat, and there’s something more than a bit improbable with how the fugitive can so easily escape detection in this single location, even as the police overturn every garbage can in the entire city.  

Even with Wesley spending all his time in the barn you’d think someone would notice what’s up.

But alas they don’t, at least until the plot needs to move forward, and all that time in the middle is spent showing the fugitive getting ready for his escape and entertaining young Wesley.  It’s these moments which do work best, offering up a playfulness that feels more sincere, away from the population of arrogance and bullying that exists outside the barn (aside from his mother).

It’s a familiar coming of age story in the end, with a character struggling to penetrate the bubble into adolescence, unsure of his place in all of this or if he even wants to be a part of it.  The fugitive then is a bridge forward, someone who gives him the necessary confidence and support that he can carry with him as he encounters more instability going forward.  The drunken father and the bullies will remain, but now Wesley has the tools to keep them in their place, or at least not to occupy more than that inside his own mind.

Up Next: Parasite (2019), The Lighthouse (2019), The Laundromat (2019)

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