Ten-year-old Devon (Barton) lives with her snobby, self-righteous parents. But cultures clash when Devon hits it off with fellow outsider Trent (Rockwell), the young guy who mows the grass and is treated like trash by his various employees.
Cultures clash when ten-year-old Devon hits it off with the family gardener. Sam Rockwell plays free spirited Trent contrasting the family's paranoia as he stops his truck, strips naked and plunges into the river to cool down. Armed with typical childish frankness and inquisitiveness, and some fairy-tale stories in her head, Devon charms the wary gardener a little more each time she pays a visit to his trailer.
Equally typically, Devon's middle-class neighbours - notably two spoilt college louts - presume there's something dodgy about the friendship between Devon and Trent, and the latter's card is marked.
Helped by playwright Naomi Wallace's intelligent first screenplay, the film shows how so-called clean-cut Americana can be as vicious, hypocritical and emotionally stunted as any section of society. Duigan makes imaginative use of his material, heightening Devon's home-life horrors to semi-cartoonishness without stretching credibility, and the fantasy finale is a winner.
There are no slip-ups from the cast either: newcomer Barton turns in a hypnotic central performance, while Rockwell is a sweet, tousled sort of "lawn dog". It gets a bit groan-worthy when it seems that Devon will cave in to a dramatic cliche - but then comes the twist that keeps things on track.
A compelling, thought-provoking, hardly groundbreaking but lovingly crafted film.