Digging to China

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Review, by Richard Schwartz

How do we end up where we are born? Is there some divine order to family and place? Or is home where and with whom we make it? In Digging to China, Timothy Hutton's bittersweet coming-of-age film, a precocious girl determined to leave this world for a more magical one finally finds her way home.

For nine-year-old Harriet Francovich, anywhere is better than Whittier. Being abducted by a UFO, riding a magic carpet to Persia, or digging her way to China are all preferable to living with a sick mom (Cathy Moriarty) and a mean, boy-crazy sister (Mary Stuart Masterson).

Things change when Harriet meets Richard Troth (Kevin Bacon) after his mother's car breaks down near the motel where she lives. Richard, who is developmentally handicapped, is as reclusive as Harriet is outgoing, but Harriet's vivid imagination and wanderlust are infectious, and the two are soon inseparable. In a fateful turn, Harriet's mother is killed, and family secrets are unearthed. When Harriet learns that Richard will be sent to a home, she convinces him to run away with her.

But the film isn't a downer, quite the opposite. Karen Janszen's wise script, in Hutton's graceful hands, captures the wonder of childhood, a place momentarily unspoiled by disappointment and loss. Newcomer Evan Rachel Wood is remarkable opposite a brilliant and nuanced performance by Bacon. Masterson, Moriarty, and Marian Seldes as Richard's mother are all outstanding.

An astonishing debut film for Hutton, Digging to China reminds us to be available to the adventure that is life -right here, right now, at home.

- Helena Echegoyen

Directed by: Timothy Hutton
Written by: Karen Janszen
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Mary Stuart Masterson, Cathy Moriarty, Evan Rachel Wood, Marian Seldes
Produced by: John Davis, Alan Mruvka
Original Music by: Cynthia Millar

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