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Safe Passage Review

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Mother of seven boys, Mag (Sarandon) feels in need of a change, but when news reaches the family that the second son is missing, all thoughts for herself recede.

★★★★★

After seven sons and the timely discovery that contraception is, in fact, widely available, Mag (Sarandon) is more than ready to teeter into the world of employment.

But her "premonition dream" over the opening credits cues a missing son scenario and we're swiftly plunged into a full-scale, surprisingly sharp, family drama in smalltown Middle America.

The lost lad in question, discovered on a TV news flash, is prodigal Percival (Matt Kesslar) who swapped the stress of being second best at home for the Marines and whose barracks in the Sinai desert have been obliterated by a terrorist bomb.

In shock, Mag's estranged husband Patrick (Shepard) and the rest of the brood - Alfred (Leonard doing his best stuffed shirt and tie), Gideon (Jason London), Izzy (Sean Astin), dreadlocked Simon (Stahl in rebellious teenager mode) and token twins (Philip Arthur Roth and Stephen Roth) - take to watching home movies while waiting for news.

What prevents this potentially sickly slice of homebaked fare from turning into daytime soap drudgery is the subtle use of flashbacks and diversions (especially the tension created between husband and wife) to flesh out the characters thoroughly. First-time director Ackermann, although occasionally allowing the script to drift into dimestore psychology, keeps a tight rein on proceedings, prompting top-notch performances from the cast, especially the fierce Sarandon. She adds a movie star fringe and gives this convincing episode of formula family drama extra bite.

Convincing, human family drama. Compelling.