Trusting no one, and stopping at nothing, as she weaves her way through the murky backstreets and barren landscapes, now implicated in the murder of a seemingly innocent man, her connections back in the US begin to reveal that there is much more at stake than first meets the eye.
Written and Directed by Howard J. Ford
Last year, when I attended the Artemis Film Festival in Beverly Hills, I was privileged to see a film that I have never forgotten. Even before I saw it, I had the amazing opportunity to interview the director, Howard Ford, and while I greatly anticipated the film, I had no idea how intensely it would affect me. When I say that I remember it still just as clearly as that Friday night in 2016, I mean it one hundred percent. This film is a fiercely personal thing for Howard since it grew out of an experience with his own son where he thought his precious boy was kidnapped. And from that, Howard did the research and discovered that children go missing more often than we realize. Therefore, so came this astounding story that it one thrilling moment after another with no diminishment until the climactic conclusion. Although I have never had my child abducted nor has she gone missing (and I pray it remains that way), I believe this movie gave me that vicarious experience in ways I had never expected.
I cannot speak highly enough of every person connected with this film. At its central core, it is the tale of a mother who has experienced one of the most beautiful things this life has to offer at a time that is somewhat inconvenient. This mother has a rather limited support system and the man she thought she could trust only wants her to leave him alone in order that he can live the life he in convinced he deserves. He cannot be bothered with a volatile mother who is suffering from post-partum depression. She could be that weak link that causes everything in his life to dematerialize. According to his egotistical way of thinking, he believes he deserves an incalculable amount of ease and comfort in his life, and because his resources are unlimited, he has the perfect suggestion for Lisa Brennan–“take a vacation with your child to Morrocco.” What better way to conceal the chink in his armor who is becoming increasingly unpredictable?
On this man’s suggestion, Lisa makes the decision to go to Morrocco, but little does she know that her life is about to be irreversibly altered forever. In the midst of what should have been a time to relax and recuperate in a lovely area of the world, the unthinkable happens, and her child is abducted. And from there, the action of the film intensifies to such an exorbitant level that at times, the viewer may feel like he or she cannot withstand any more. But with Howard’s impeccable directing style and driving storyline, one can count on the fact that this is only the beginning. The sights and sounds that will envelop and irradiate the screen are going to cause the audience to empathize with every gut-wrenching emotion experienced by this young mother.
Now, before I saw this film, Howard mentioned that the movie would cause parents to ask the question, “How far would you go to save your child?” I admit I was a bit of a skeptic. Sure, I love my daughter. I would gladly put myself in harm’s way and in the line of fire to preserve her life, even at the expense of my own. That’s the simplest decision I would ever make. Even before she was born, her health and happiness were my primary concern even if it meant my discomfort and pain. Thus, going into the viewing of this film, I wasn’t prepared for what I would ultimately witness.
In the role of Lisa, Angela Dixon gives us an Oscar-worthy performance that few actors, let alone actresses, could begin to undertake. I had the opportunity to meet and interview Angela as well, and all I can say is that her training regimen and preparation for this movie is unlike anything I have ever heard from another actor. Granted, I haven’t interviewed a wide variety of action movie actors, but I have conversed with my share of stunt people, and Angela’s preparation would go even beyond what some of these stunt performers might do to prepare for a role. The fact that she did her own stunts, learned a foolproof American accent and still found the wherewithal to immerse herself in this role and genuinely connect with it on a profound level is something that is not typically seen from movie actors, not even indie film actors. But in the case of Howard and Angela, nothing is done halfway in this film. The contributions of these phenomenal artists have elevated this film far above the customary, run-of-the-mill indie film.
Remember what I said about my skepticism at what I would do if my child were abducted? Going into the film, I readily declared I would never do anything illegal to get my child back. I wouldn’t hurt anyone else. I wouldn’t dream of using questionable tactics. In fact, I found myself judging Lisa in the first third or so of the film. She got herself into this mess, and you reap what you sow. I wouldn’t ever find myself in a similar position.
However, I remember sitting there in the theater and thinking at one point, “I really don’t know what I’d do in that position.” And I remember I surprised myself in even having that thought cross my mind. The most important lesson I learned in this film was that when it comes to rescuing your own flesh and blood from the clutches of evil, all the rules are ejected, and a mother just might do something foolish, dangerous, or illegal. While I hope I never am placed in that position, at least I now find myself thinking of mothers who do desperate things with a little less judgment than I might have before.
Another theme I appreciated in this film was the strength and sisterhood of women. While I have never been to Morrocco, I have been to Yemen, and so often I found myself comparing what I was beholding on screen to what I had seen and experienced in that country so long ago. In countries such as this, women are considered second-class citizens, property, and worse, and harsh treatment of women is the common mindset. Women are looked upon as being weak and sometimes even crazy.
Thankfully, Lisa has some allies. One is a woman back in the States, but there are other unlikely women along the way as well. Some don’t survive the story, but others emerge incredibly stronger. I still have the image in my mind of the local woman who helped Lisa in spite of what she knew her ultimate fate would be. This woman was committed to what was right regardless of the consequences.
And even though a woman with no rights is expected to be stupid enough to go along with the bad guys, women in this cultural context are much more stalwart than men would ever believe. Lisa can thank her stars above that this woman comes to her aid at the perfect time. Does her help change the outcome of the story? You’ll have to watch to find out.
There is no doubt that Howard is pro-women, and when I say that, I mean pro-strong women. The men in the film are essentially portrayed as unsavory criminals who underestimate every woman they meet. In their minds, women are good for one thing–procreation. And in providing that service, the expectation is there that they will provide all the tools necessary to please a man in every sense of the word. If a woman can’t do this, she is devalued more than rubbish and should be discarded. Well, not if the women in this film have their way!
I refuse to spoil the film for anyone. All I will say is that Howard is a master storyteller because about the time you think you have the tale unraveled, he throws in a twist you do not see coming. In fact, I remember that Angela told me that there were a few different versions of the ending, and she wasn’t sure which version was ultimately chosen until she saw it. And there is no doubt that the conclusion that was chosen was the best.
I realize I have waited some time to bring this film to my readers for a review, but I didn’t want to review it until I knew that my U.S. readers would be able to watch this film for themselves. The film has been over in other parts of the world for quite some time. As of today, you can buy your own copy exclusively at Walmart since Sony has released it at last in this country. While it may have been a long time coming, I can promise you the wait has been worth it.
A few cautions I do need to make for my more sensitive viewers. The film does bear a rating of “R,” and that rating does mean that there may be some objectionable content for some of my readers out there. There is some profanity sprinkled throughout, but I can assure you that it is not used glibly. While I don’t typically use such words if at all, I am not nearly as bothered when these words are used sparingly. And in the case of Never Let Go, I can assure you that the profanity is relatively mild when compared with some films out there today.
There is violence in this film. Howard does have a horror background–those are the films he has been known for. While some of it is rather realistic at times, I never found myself turning away due to gratuitous violence. Every time blood was spilled or a character was killed, it was realistically portrayed with no more disturbing scenes than what the evening news might show us when covering a tempestuous story.
In conclusion, without reservation, I highly recommend this film to all of my readers. As my quote in the trailer states, I rarely have been so moved by a film. After seeing it once, I have never forgotten much of the film and its story. It is a film based on real statistics and inspired by truth, though the story itself is fictitious. I would suggest that if you get a chance, stop by your local Walmart and pick this movie up today. It is the perfect weekend viewing, especially as the summer heat starts its annual climb. Go inside, make some popcorn, put the disc in your machine, and enjoy being challenged by one of the cleverest films to come out of any studio in quite some time. If this film does not change your thinking or at least cause you to think, I might wonder if you went into the viewing with an open mind. For me, I declare this movie to be one of the most influential I have seen in my entire life–easily on my top ten list of thought-provoking films that feature strong women!
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