Playwright-screenwriter Mark Medoff (“Children of a Lesser God”) makes a solid directorial debut with “Children on Their Birthdays,” an unassuming, charming period piece based on Truman Capote’s classic short story about an eventful summer in small-town Alabama, circa 1947. Low-key pic is best suited for family-skewing cable nets.
Thirteen-year-old Billy Bob Murphy (Joe Pichler) develops first major crush of his life when Lily Jane Bobbit (Tania Raymonde) moves into the rooming house next door with her mute mother. Lily Jane is a pretty, self-possessed Southern belle in the making with impeccable manners, and she expects Billy Bob to behave
like a gentleman at all times. But it’s hard for Billy Bob to resist the bad influence of Preacher (Jesse Plemons), his rough-and-ready best friend. And it’s even harder for the youngster to accept budding romance between his war-widowed mother (an atypically wholesome Sheryl Lee) and a gregarious mechanic (Christopher McDonald, also cast against type). Medoff gets fine work from his actors — note Tom Arnold’s amusing oiliness as a grandiloquent con man — and transcends obvious budgetary restraints to enhance pic with evocative period flavor and detail.