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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Finding Forrester (2000)



Reviews and Comments

The story of the undiscovered genius is a compelling one. It helps us understand people better if we learn that geniuses are real people, too, with concerns and fears and insecurities just like everybody else. As outside observers, we often do not see people deeply enough to act and react meaningfully. We may be jealous of another person's intelligence or talents or even threatened by them -- but by less easily measureable standards, maybe we are better off being ourselves. Prowess in one aspect of life doesn't mean the playing field isn't level or even disadvantageous in thousands of others.

Rob Brown plays Jamal Wallace. He is a brilliant student and possesses a remarkable talent for self-expression. His story is fascinating, because he does not understand the value of his gift. He denies it. He does poorly in school on purpose, to fit in with those around him who do not, in fact, perceive him deeply enough not to be threatened by a stroke of uncharacteristic genius. Or, at least, that is what Jamal believes. He doesn't know, because he never gives his friends a chance to fail him.

He meets up with William Forrester, played by Sean Connery. Forrester is on the other end of success. He wrote great things decades ago but now holes himself up in his apartment and avoids contact with the world just outside his window. Forrester and Wallace are unlike each other in almost every way: different in race, age, social situation, state of life. But they are both thinking men, both writers, and both have much to teach each other.

This relationship drives the film. It is enthralling. Connery and Brown both turn in fantastic performances, and they work beautifully together. There are subplots about suspected plagiarism and past hardships, and these are important, but only because they illustrate what what these two men are up against in their personal quests. One needs to find his place in the world. One needs to discover it again. The remarkable thing is that everyone has a story like this, or will, and yet each one is different and uniquely important. Amidst a plethora of movies that have no meaningful stories to tell at all, here is a film that tells two.