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Release Date: July 7, 2015 (Limited)
Director: Clenet Verdi-Rose
MPAA Rating: NR

The story at the heart of Sand Castles could be ripped from the headlines. A young girl is abducted by a sex offender and held captive for more than a decade. Some films would focus on the abduction, the search for the kidnapped girl, and/or the apprehension of the perpetrator (for example, see Prisoners). However, Jordon Hodges’ screenplay deals with the girl’s return and what that means to her and her family.

The film shows a family enjoying a day at the beach. Though the mother, Marie Daly (Saxon Trainor), is elsewhere, her husband Jim (John Newkirk) is with his son, Noah, and daughter, Lauren. The son has left something back at his sand castle, so Dad puts the kids in the vehicle and goes to retrieve the boy’s toy. The boy exits the vehicle to play with a puppy and suddenly the vehicle takes off with the girl still inside. Lauren remains missing for over ten years. My initial question is how could the police not find the vehicle given that it is the Daly’s? After all, they would know the make/model and license plate number. But as I suggested in the first paragraph, the film is uninterested in the search that must have taken place.

The film does not present events in absolute chronological order, but that did not present a problem as the flashbacks are well-executed. We see Marie ten years later. Probably because she has never gotten over the loss of Lauren, Marie is a major alcoholic who relies heavily on Noah (Jordon Hodges). In one of those flashbacks, the father commits suicide; that was his way of dealing with his daughter’s abduction. The other member of the family is Jim’s brother, Tommy (Randy Spence). He drinks too much and is addicted to cocaine. Now in his early 20s, Noah seems to be the only member of the family who is well-adjusted but that should not be taken to mean he misses his sister any less. He has simply learned to deal with things in a mature manner rather than self-destruct like his mother, father, and uncle.

Lauren (Anne Winters) is found outside a diner in the small Indiana town where she grew up. She is first placed in the hospital which is where her family visits after being informed by Detective Cloud (Scott Jemison) that she has resurfaced. She does not speak to anyone including her family; even when she returns home, she refuses to talk. A social worker named Alison (Daniella Grace) visits the Daly home in an attempt to help Lauren adjust. Eventually, Lauren begins to come out of her shell, particularly toward Noah. However, things do not stay sane for long. Alison has reported Marie’s drinking problem to her superior. A Child Protective Services official and a police officer visit the Daly home and find alcohol in Marie’s room. Lauren is removed from the home that she has just started to get used to again and is placed with a foster family. Once again the Dalys lose Lauren.

Meanwhile, Tommy gets Detective Cloud’s computer login information and searches for the sex offender who resembles the man a witness claimed is the kidnapper. The film does not explain how the witness knows this, and I found that aspect troubling. Tommy finds the perpetrator via his vehicle and breaks into the man’s home. What happens next must be seen as I do not wish to ruin a climactic moment in the film.

The film ends on tragic yet hopeful note involving something Noah does for Lauren after she is reunited with her family. There is also a connection between Alison and Noah earlier in the film that has consequences for the movie’s denouement. I think writing about what happens at the end would constitute a spoiler, so I will leave the film’s conclusion out of this review. I will say that I did not see that ending coming, and I dare say that even the most astute viewer will be surprised.

I have given the film a 6/10 because there are a few unnecessary and confusing moments that distract from the story’s strength. But Jordon Hodges is only in his late 20s; he has not been acting long; and this is his first solo screenplay (he co-wrote another film in 2011). Clenet Verdi-Rose has been a second assistant director on numerous shows, but this is only his third feature as a director. So, I think both men are talented enough that with more projects under their belts they have the potential to do even better work in the future. It must be said that the filmhas been well-received at numerous festivals including the winning of several awards, and I admit that I can understand why. I would recommend Sand Castles to anyone interested in seeing an interesting independent film about family.

8 Responses to “DWF 2014: SAND CASTLES Review”

  1. iSeekTheTruth Reply

    This isn’t a review so much as just a recap of the whole movie…. Learn to do your job better.

    • Brandy Carter Reply

      I must agree with your opinion of it not being a proper review. It definitely deserves some work.

  2. blessedbygrace88 Reply

    Hi. What do u think is the connection bet the bookshop owner and the guy killed by Tommy?

    • hinileb Reply

      Tommy killed the wrong guy. That guy may be a criminal, but have nothing to do with Lauren. Or, he can be just an innocent guy.

      • Brandy Carter Reply

        I respectfully have to disagree with his possible innocence, because of his paraphernalia in his basement that included the plastic curtains surrounding a mattress with a teddy bear and the well centered video camera, focusing directly on potentially possible victims?

    • Brandy Carter Reply

      I think it’s one of those things the writer allows the viewer’s to decide for themselves, which I actually appreciate a movie allowing my imagination a creative ability. To answer your question, my creativity has decided them to be friends with common perverse interests. A disgusting thought, but still a fictionalized possibility even though (in reality), many sickos to that degree keep their behaviors to themselves as a general rule. Being this a fictional storyline with fictionalized characters, I imagine the possibilities are endless with any creative imagination concluding an exact assumption?
      In some instances they’re allegedly known on occasion to have small weak minds in few residents of small towns; according to what I’ve viewed in a many movies past and present?

  3. Brandy Carter Reply

    Sand Castles 2014; In the review there’s a claim of confusion which I honestly don’t understand at any point, and quite easily I figured out the ending very early in the movie. For an individual who often views many movies, I believe the conclusion to be rather obvious. Even so, the movie I found to have an excellent storyline and cast. “It’s well worth viewing and held my interest to entirety.” Personally, I believe it definitely deserves a better rating then a 6/10; I feel that a bit offensive. Because the movie was written so well, I felt compelled to Google, inquiring whether it was based upon reality? From my personal opinion and a background of daily abuse for well over a decade, the writer portrayed his victim without much detail, but accurately with what was offered. Allow me to express, enough so that I experienced a misfortune of unexpected flashback’s.
    In my appreciation for this movie, I credit it with a well deserved, 8/10! Although not originally unique in some aspects, still cleverly written, directed and produced well enough that I recommend Sand Castles to anyone interested in a fictionalized unfortunate possibility with an ending (potentially) similar to a reality? “WARNING; POSSIBLE SUGGESTIVE DISTURBING CONTENT FOR SOME…?”

    • Alexis L Carney Reply

      I don’t Understand the ending of the Family picture etc

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