Chuck Jaffee: Tense family drama opens film festival | TheUnion.com

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Chuck Jaffee: Tense family drama opens film festival

The police come to a home where an anger-prone alcoholic beat his wife. That’s the first scene in “Like Dandelion Dust.” Your stomach will remain in a knot for the rest of the film.

How will this sobered and rehabilitated husband be with his wife after she fetches him from prison seven years later? Yes, she’s there for him seven years later.

You will be tempted to project ready judgments, especially as their story is contrasted against a married couple with an unsullied case of loving life skills and lots of money. You will worry and ache for the child caught in a complicated reality between birth parents and adoptive parents.

That child does not understand the complexities of life. That child cannot appreciate that there are laws to oversee his welfare, that those laws strain under the weight of moms and dads in life-tearing circumstances. A child feels the way moms and dads love, the way they behave under duress.

You will be tempted to project ready judgments on the way loving people act under duress, but you will do well to let this emotional family drama rack your sensibilities.

This film covers its wrenching issues so neatly, it can be accused of being an exercise in presenting those issues. That said, the writing and awareness-raising air genuinely well. The effectiveness of the child actor anchors a solidly realized set of characters.

Mira Sorvino (Oscar winner in “Mighty Aphrodite”) and Barry Pepper (“Flags of Our Fathers”; “Saving Private Ryan”) boost the profile of this low-budget, independent film. It deserves to find regular distribution beyond the festival circuit.

Although the ninth annual Nevada City Film Festival emphasizes short films, “Like Dandelion Dust” makes for an impressive opening night, full-length feature on Thursday, Aug. 20, at the Grass Valley Center for the Arts.