Movie Review: Like Dandelion Dust

Best-selling Christian novelist Karen Kingsbury has some very persistent fans.  They organized a grassroots movement on Facebook to bring the shoestring-budget indie film version of her popular novel, Like Dandelion Dust, to local theaters throughout the country this weekend.

Based on this information, I was expecting to screen a movie along the lines of compelling but clearly budget films like Facing the Giants or Fireproof.  Instead, I had the pleasure of watching a beautifully- filmed, superbly-acted story of two vastly different couples and the sweet little boy who is caught in the middle of a bitter custody battle.

In the opening scene, we meet staggering, drunk Rip Porter (Barry Pepper), who is hauled off to jail by police.  His battered wife, Wendy (Mira Sorvino), watches with mixed emotions from the front porch of their dilapidated house in rural Ohio.

Fast-forward seven years to a completely different setting.  A light ocean breeze ruffles the blond hair of adorable six year-old Joey (Maxwell Perry Cotton).  His deeply tanned and obviously wealthy father, Jack Campbell (Cole Hauser), guides him in steering a blindingly white sailboat through the calm waters of a marina in Jacksonville, Florida.  They return to their beachfront mansion and the loving arms of Jack’s wife, Molly (Kate Levering).

The Campbell’s apparently perfect world is soon shattered by a disturbing phone call.  A rehabilitated Rip Porter has been released from jail and has discovered that little Joey is in fact his son.  Wendy secretly gave him up for adoption, but Rip’s signature had been forged on the adoption papers while he was in jail.  Since Rip did not legally consent to the adoption, a judge decreed that Joey is to be returned to his natural parents.

The devastated Campbells attempt to use their money and influence to get Joey back while the Porters make valiant efforts to help their own son feel welcome in a vastly different environment from which he was raised.  Both couples are flawed but truly love the little boy and will stop at nothing to keep him.  His ultimate fate will keep viewers on the edge of their seats, clutching boxes of Kleenex, as the film reaches its heart-wrenching climax.

Like Dandelion Dust is certainly not escapist fare, but the individual performances of the talented actors and the gripping story make this movie a must-see.  Barry Pepper convincingly portrays Rip as a recovering alcoholic trying to make a fresh start in life while battling the demons from his past addiction.

You’ll definitely be seeing more of young Maxwell Perry Cotton, who perfectly captures the essence of a six year-old boy.  One moment, he tearfully clings to the only mother he’s known, refusing to leave home.  In the next scene, he happily builds a tree house with Rip, who was a complete stranger just moments earlier.

Cole Hauser and Kate Levering evoke sympathy as the couple with everything who lose their most treasured possession, but Mira Sorvino steals the show with her understated and moving portrayal of Wendy Porter.  Mrs. Sorvino, a mother of two, proves that her Oscar was no fluke.  She is the true Christian in this film, and her expressive face shows the internal turmoil of loving and forgiving a man who has hurt her deeply but is trying to redeem himself.

Like Dandelion Dust will be released in select theaters on September 24th.  This film is rated PG-13 for thematic material including domestic violence and alcohol abuse.

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