The Free World full movie review - Holbrook and Moss make it work
"The Free World" is an American 100-minute movie from 2016, so relatively new still. It received several nominations, for example at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.
The writer and director is Jason Lew, who was mostly known for writing the Mia Wasikowska movie "Restless" so far. This one here is his second effort as writer and very first as director. And taking that into account, it is a pretty decent outcome. This is the story of a man who was released from jail and apparently he got convicted for something he didn't do. Anyway, he is free again now, in the free world mentioned in the title, but still struggles, mostly because of police officers who try to make his life a living hell. This refers mostly to Sung Kang's character who keeps following the protagonist throughout the film, even shows up at his workplace. His interrogation scene with the protagonist being the dog in the cage and him being outside was one of my favorites from the entire movie. Nice metaphoric value there. Kang and Octavia Spencer play the most significant supporting characters and you can see them somewhat as the contrary parts of goodness and evil when it comes to how they treat the central character. The latter is played by Boyd Holbrook and I think he does a really good job, especially in the more quiet parts which are really 85% of the film. His character runs into Elisabeth Moss' character and it turns out he needs to help her in hiding something terrible that could easily backfire at him. But the compassion he learned while in jail and also the strong influence of his conversion to Islam only allow one result: He has to help her. of course, physical attraction also plays a role, but how can you not be attracted to Elisabeth Moss, especially in that dress she wears in the second half. She once again manages to be awkwardly stunning as she always is, also on "Mad Men for example.
So the cast is actually really good, a Golden Globe winner is on board with Moss and Oscar winner Spencer does what she has to do, even if admittedly it is just her usual shtick and she really feels almost the same regardless of where she is in, at least judging from what I have seen her so far, which is not everything, but still quite a bit. Kang was also a good casting choice, even if his character is as gimmicky and one-dimensional as Spencer's. He makes the character work somehow. I am also glad that his character does not sit int he police car at the end because this would have been really unrealistic to be honest. Instead, the film manages to go for convincing realism on all occasions basically and I never ever had the impression that I was watching actors instead of characters. Of course, there were a few scenes that I did not like as much for example the one at the very end shortly before they get caught and the way he takes all the guilt while she runs away did not really fit too well, especially as she liked/loved him and would not want him to be charged for what she did. Then again, maybe she was already too far away to hear it. The very final scene was uplifting once again and while I have no problem with going for unhappy endings (possibly him dying from the gunshot wounds), I still believe that Lew made a wise decision in ending the film the way he did. I enjoyed the watch and if this film hits theaters near you at some point in the future, you should check it out. Most likely, you will not regret it as Holbrook and Moss are really tremendous and they also had great chemistry I think. It's easy to care for the story and characters and what would happen to them, even if they may have lacked real depth or shades on some occasions. Thumbs up from me.