Orphans

Adapting his own play, Lyle Kessler has ventured out from the clapped-out clapboard in Newark where Phillip (Anderson) is kept in thrall to his brother Treat (Modine). An opening sequence, showing Treat as a compassionate mugger, establishes the violent conflict of emotions within the robbing hood, but otherwise the few external excursions don't add much. Fortunately, the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the central arena is by no means dissipated. Phillip believes he will die if he goes outside, so while his keeper is out providing for them, he prowls the house like a mangy caged animal or (though Treat thinks he's illiterate) reads in the attic. This precarious state of interdependence is upset when Treat brings back Harold (Finney), a gangster who is drunk and rolling in dodgy dollars, in a ransom bid defeated when Harold, a fellow-orphan, offers these dead end kids his affection. Under Harold's munificent guidance, the lonesome sons rehabilitate both their home and themselves...until Treat's inability to control his feelings precipitates disaster. Pakula's direction extracts every ounce of energy from this ferocious tragedy, with Finney and Anderson, repeating their acclaimed performances from the London stage production, eclipsed by Modine, in stunning form. It's funny, fearsome, and finally very moving.

Release details

Duration: 120 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Alan J Pakula
Screenwriter: Lyle Kessler
Cast: Albert Finney
Matthew Modine
Kevin Anderson
John Kellogg
Anthony Heald
Novella Nelson
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