Pieces of April (12A)

Written and Directed by Peter Hedges

Review by Darren Guy

This is a beautiful film, set against the backdrop of a poor urban ghetto in lower east side New York, where April (Katie Holmes) awaits her middle class family driving through the countryside from suburban Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving.

April (Katie Holmes) is a semi punk, former rebel and druggie, living in a run-down housing scheme with her loving boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke) and is trying to settle into a more together life. Although she has been all but disowned by her family, April hopes to patch-up her relationship with her mother (Patricia Clarkson) who is dying of cancer.

The problem is April can’t cook, and not only that the cooker isn’t working. Fearful that she will only add to her family’s incompetent and disastrous view of her, she is thrown into a complete panic. And that is where the turning point of the film begins. On her journey to borrow someone else’s oven we meet the other tenants, most of them helpful, warm, kind, and wonderful characters, challenging Hollywood’s stereotype of ghetto inhabitants.

The best performance in the film though comes not from Holmes but from Clarkson who gives an extremely positive, realistic, vivid and moving account of a woman going through the final stages of cancer. During their journey from Pennsylvania we get an insight into not only the pressure of a family attempting to face up to the fact that this could be their final thanksgiving together but also the bitterness most of them feel towards a daughter or sister who has broken away from a more restrained and conventential lifestyle.

Pieces of April was made on a budget that was less than the cost of an advert, but it is far superior to many of the pap Hollywood produces. Its strength is not in the narrative but in the strong and realistic characters that shine out of the film, each one has the strength to stand on their own. Catch it at the FACT.