Mark Reviews Movies

The Parts You Lose


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Christopher Cantwell

Cast: Danny Murphy, Aaron Paul, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Scoot McNairy

MPAA Rating: Not rated

Running Time: 1:33

Release Date: 10/4/19 (limited)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | October 3, 2019

Somewhere in rural North Dakota (Is there any other kind of North Dakota?) and early into The Parts You Lose, a boy with impaired hearing, a low sense of self-worth, and a troubled—to put it gently—relationship with his father meets a stranger. The stranger knows a thing or two about the world. One of those things is that you have to take what you want. The other is that sometimes violence is the only answer.

It's obvious that Wesley (Danny Murphy), the boy, looks up to the unnamed stranger (played by Aaron Paul), whom the kid finds nearly frozen in a field and brings back the family barn.  He looks up to the man if only because the stranger treats him well and with respect.

The same can't be said of Wesley's father Ronnie (Scoot McNairy), who is impatient and resents that he can't have a "normal" relationship with his son. Wesley's mother Gail (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), on the other hand, is kind and patient, but because of that, the kid doesn't tell her how he's bullied at school.

By the way, it's important to note that the stranger is a criminal, who perpetrated and is the only survivor of an armed robbery, and that the police are looking for him. This doesn't matter to Wesley, and wisely, it doesn't really matter to screenwriter Darren Lemke and director Christopher Cantwell. They easily could have turned this setup into a thriller, but instead, they've made a quiet, thoughtful film, which is about a lonely kid looking for guidance from the only person who seems to care enough to provide it.

The real tension isn't in whether or not Wesley or the stranger will be caught. It's in whether or not the kid will take the good advice from the stranger (that he has stand up for himself) and toss aside the awful lessons (that he should stand up for himself by severely injuring those who wrong him).

Lemke and Cantwell allow this to play out without many plot interferences. The film is observant of these characters and their relationships, and the performances let us see these characters' real or perceived flaws and their actual or potential virtues. The Parts You Lose could have been simplistic, but in simply watching how this boy figures out his place in the world, it's anything but that.

Copyright © 2019 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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