Cinepub


Documental: Prodigal Sons by Jamie

Some may consider this review a touch spoilery but it’s really not to be honest. There’s stuff that may be considered spoilers if you haven’t seen the trailer I suppose.

Kimberley Reed is a magazine editor based in New York but she was brought up in Helena, Montana and is headed back there for her twenty year high school reunion and she’s excited if somewhat apprehensive about seeing her old friends. Part of this apprehension derives from the fact that she’ll be seeing her estranged brother adopted brother Marc who she hasn’t seen for a decade. There’s also the fact that the last time she was in her hometown her name wasn’t Kimberley Reed. It was Paul McKerrow

Yes, Kimberley was born a boy and had suffered with gender identifications for her whole life. In her school days as Paul, he had been one of the co-captain’s of the football team, was popular and had girls chasing after him. When he finally made it to San Francisco after leaving her home town she had the gender reassignment surgery that would make her into the person she would want to be. Marc, on the other hand, didn’t have such a privileged life, at least from his point of view. He was popular but he was also considered hyperactive during pre-school which caused him to be left back a year, putting in the same class as brother Paul.

He was popular enough but he preferred the partying life rather than buckling down and excelling at anything. Then at the age of twenty-one he was involved in a car accident which left his brain scarred and caused him to suffer from seizures. He underwent a couple of surgeries to remove the scar tissue but unfortunately this had other side-effects. Left with a damaged brain that affected his short term memory and ability to control his emotions, Marc began to dwell on the past and the sibling rivalry that he felt characterised it, feeling as though life had cheated him even though out of his siblings in his mind he had turned out normal (He also had another younger brother, Todd, who was gay). Combine this with said difficulty with regard to controlling his emotions and Marc would sometimes lash out, uncontrollably violently at those around him.

Another aspect of Marc’s life that caused him difficulty was the fact that he was indeed adopted. In his eyes, his siblings had another advantage because they were genetically related to their parents, meaning they should have had a better idea who they were. As for Marc, he was always left wondering just who he was supposed to be and just where his innate ability for the piano came from.

So it’s with all this going on that Kim decides to film her reunion and hopeful reconciliation with her brother. At first things seem to be going well but before she’s due to go home, Marc snaps and begins going on about the past and begins tearing shit up. Still, they do part on somewhat good terms, Marc feeling incredibly guilty about his inability to control himself. Some small ground has been made but it’s not really the reunion Kimberley had been hoping for.

Then Marc receives some fairly incredible news about his birth mother. It turns out that she was Rebecca Welles, daughter of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth. Yes, the man who had been jealous of his siblings’ genetic connection to their parents turned out to be related by blood to Hollywood royalty. He’s flown out to Croatia to participate in a documentary about his grandfather by Oja Kodar, Orson’s “soul-mate”. Still it seems that despite these sudden revelations about his famous relatives, Marc is still unable to let go of his past with his adopted family, particularly the brother who became a sister that he had envied so much growing up which causes Kimberley some embarrassment when he shows a picture of the three brothers as youngsters to the crew of the Welles documentary.

That night the siblings have a discussion and Marc says something that suddenly makes Kim rethink her life. He makes her realise that she can’t be true to herself as a whole person if she completely tries to erase Paul from her past. This sends her on a kind of pilgrimage to rediscover her past and confront the transition that she’d tried to bury deep inside herself. She goes back to San Francisco and visits haunts that she’d frequent both before and after her sex change as well as meet up with an old friend of Paul’s.

And so the film continues on but sadly, Marc’s behaviour continues to become more and more erratic and violent until it finally reaches a boiling point during a family Christmas and events transpire that end with his arrest.

I think that’s about enough of a synopsis there. What I can say about this documentary is fuck! It twists and turns like a twisty turny thing. Every time you think that everything might finally be resolved and this family might have a chance at something approaching normality something else happens! It’s truly a pretty fucking incredible story that I promise will keep you hooked from start to finish.

What amazes me the most is that I came to this film thinking it would mostly be about the son of Orson Welles’ long lost grandson, and when you look at Marc the relation is obvious, particularly when you see his nose in profile. There are times when there are sideways close ups of that you almost think Welles has been brought back to life somehow. The fascinating thing, as I was saying, is that I went into this thinking that that would be the most interesting part of this whole film but it turns out it’s actually a fairly minor part of the story in relation to everything else.

No, this isn’t the story of Orson Welles’ long lost grandson. Rather it’s the story of a family and the members of it struggling to find out their true identities, trying to find out just who they are and how they fit into this mental world. Hell, even when Marc finds out who he’s related to it doesn’t seem to change his identity crisis. If anything it’s probably the catalyst for his condition worsening. Imagine if you had grown up jealous of your seemingly superior brother only to suffer brain damage and feel as though you’re completely unable to fulfil your true potential. Then you find out that you’re related to one of the most revered men in cinema history and yet the news basically comes to late for this new information to really change who you are or who you can be. That would probably eat a person alive inside. Of course, I’m just speculating but that’s certainly how I’d feel about it.

All in all, this is a truly incredible documentary that I don’t think I can possibly recommend further. Find it and watch it. Five pints out of five. Laterz.

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