When I Find the Ocean (DVD Review)6 Jul, 2008 By: Laura Tiffany
Prebook 7/8/08; Street 8/5/08
Rated ‘PG' for thematic material involving violence and racial slurs, and for language.
Stars Diane Ladd, Graham Greene, Lee Majors, Amy Redford, Bernie Casey, Richard Tyson, Lily Matland Holly.
There's a really decent movie hidden somewhere inside When I Find the Ocean, but unfortunately it's drowned beneath a bevy of lessons and melodrama.
Preteen Lily (Holly) is grieving over her father, a sailor lost at sea. She lives on a farm with her paternal grandparents and her mother, who is about to marry a man (Tyson) who thinks a belt is a proper tool for disciplining a child.
Obsessed with the ocean and unable to withstand these secret beatings, Lily runs away, drifting down a creek that's filled with more dangers than you could imagine — a cougar, redneck poachers and a whole lot of racial injustice.
The setting is lovely and Lily's relationship with her grandfather (Majors) is touching and inspiring — what kid wouldn't want to grow up free on a farm with an outdoorsy grandfather and his friend (Greene) teaching her how to survive in the wilderness?
But what could have been a poignant family film centered just on Lily, her grief and the unveiling of her monster stepfather-to-be turns into a treatise on race relations in the South in the 1960s that has nothing new to say and only gets in the way of the more interesting tale.
Majors and Greene are sturdy and likeable, and Tyson is appropriately slimy and menacing. Young Holly physically fits the role well, but doesn't always have the gravitas required. Ladd is another story as the shrill grandmother, whose overblown Southern accent rivals Paula Deen's syrupy twang.
Tonya S. Holly (mother of the lead) wrote, directed and produced the film. As a first effort, it shows promise, but it also shows the need for some other hands to be involved — particularly during the writing process — and hopefully that will happen for Holly's next film.