'Torn' Review: Jeremiah Birnbaum's Earnest Hot-Button

This modestly scaled, moderately involving enterprise earnestly addresses hot-button issues of terrorism, racism and bullying.

Earnest drama “Torn” approaches hot-button issues of terrorism, racism and bullying from the standpoint of parents dealing with highly mixed emotions after their kids are killed in a mall explosion — and authorities suspect one of the teens was responsible. This modestly scaled, moderately involving enterprise from director Jeremiah Birnbaum and scenarist Michael Richter seems unlikely to stir much interest in limited theatrical play starting Oct. 18. VOD and possible broadcast prospects might look brighter.

Northern California couple Maryam (Mahnoor Baloch) and Ali (Faran Tahir) are inconsolable when their only child, Walter, dies at a nearby shopping center; ditto single mother Lea (Dendrie Taylor), whose own teenage son Eddie is also among the casualties. The two grieving mothers’ tentative bonding is challenged when they learn their children are under FBI investigation for what might not have been the initially reported gas-main accident, but a deliberate bombing.

Walter is suspected because he’d had a recent fight with race-baiting peers, and because Ali was briefly arrested after 9/11 (though it turned out a case of mistaken identity). Just when temperamental Lea has started to direct her bountiful anger toward the Pakistani-emigre family as a result, she finds Eddie now similarly suspected of possibly retaliating against bullying schoolmates who also happened to have been at the mall that day.

Resulting stresses and doubts weigh heavily on the immigrant couple’s marriage, while conversely bringing about a cautious reconciliation between bitterly resentful divorcee Lea and the ex-husband (Patrick St. Esprit) she’d kept out of Eddie’s life. Other chief supporting players are John Heard as a sympathetic police detective and Sharon Washington as a hard-driving federal investigator.

Performances and presentation are solid enough, but the pic feels a bit undernourished, particularly once it closes on a note that’s well intentioned but provides no real resolution. Package boasts nothing that will lose impact on the smallscreen.

Film Review: 'Torn'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Oct. 10, 2013. Running time: 79 MIN.

Production

A Dada Films release of a Fog City Pictures presentation in association with Precept Prods. and Objective 49. Produced by James Burke, Jeremiah Birnbaum, Michael Richter. Executive producer, Jawad Qureshi. Co-producers, George Manatos, Maria Victoria Ponce, Sam Chase.

Crew

Directed by Jeremiah Birnbaum. Screenplay, Michael Richter, from a story by Richter, Marc Posner, Jeremiah Birnbaum. Camera (color, HD, widescreen), Sam Chase; editor, Bruce Canon; music, David Reid, Derek Bermel; production designer, Aiyana Trotter; art director, Garrett Lowe; set decorator, Lisa Ryers; costume designer, Tamara Chandler; sound, Nikolas Zasimczuk; supervising sound editor, Bill Newcomb; re-recording mixers, David F. Van Slyke, Michael Szakmeister, David Aaron Brun; assistant director, Scott Larkin; casting, Julia Kim.

With

Mahnoor Baloch, Dendrie Taylor, Faran Tahir, John Heard, Sharon Washington, Patrick St. Esprit, Jordon Parrott, Sagar Parekh, Shruti Tewari, Vivek Tatineni, Joe Hakik, Michael Ray Wisely, Vilma Vitanza.

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