Well made but very disturbing.
I am in a bit of a quandary with Away From Here. When it comes to the technical merits of the film, it is well acted and very well made. But, on the other hand, I felt a bit angry as well as disturbed by what appears to be a plot that excuses sex offenses—at least one particular kind. Why would anyone want to make a film like this? And, who is the intended audience?!
James (Nick Stahl) has just gotten out of prison. Slowly through the course of the film you learn why. When James was a youth minister at his church, he began a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl—and the girl ended up being the head preacher’s daughter! However, James tells no one about this once he’s released—including his boss and his new girlfriend. At the same time, he has kept the love letters the girl wrote him six years ago—all of which go to show you that he isn’t taking his recovery very seriously.
However, the film clearly seems to indicate that the punishment he received for his behaviors was, at least in part, unjust. What’s going to happen when this old sexual conquest (she’s now married and 21) comes to see him? And, what is going to happen when his new girlfriend finds out he’s a registered sex offender? As I said above, I just don’t understand the point of this film. Is it trying to mitigate James’ crime? Is the film trying to get you to like him? Is the film, in some convoluted way, trying to blame the girl’s father for the sexual relationship? All the answers appeared to be yes to me—and that is what I found so irritating about the movie.
To give you some background about myself, I used to be a trained psychotherapist who worked with, among others, quite a few convicted sex offenders as well as victims. The film’s contention that it was a one-time occurrence, that he’s cured and that you can somehow justify James’ actions all concerned the crap out of me as I sat and watched. What part of ‘he was an adult in a position of authority and she was a 15-year-old’ am I missing?! And, had James been honest to his employer and girlfriend and tried to learn from his past, I really would have enjoyed the film—it could have been about growth and redemption. But given his secretive behavior and the now 21-year-old telling James it was all HER fault … I just can’t recommend this film to anyone. It was well made but also promotes some very unsavory messages and addresses the problem in many of the worst ways. And, as a father of two daughters, the film made my skin crawl. Avoid this one.
Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer
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