Teen’s trauma mov­ingly shown

Los Angeles Times - - MOVIES - — Robert Abele

In “Gabriel,” Rory Culkin’s tit­u­lar char­ac­ter is a fid­gety, touchy, de­ter­mined young man ea­ger for an in­de­pen­dence and adult ful­fill­ment that we grad­u­ally re­al­ize over the course of wri­ter­di­rec­tor Lou Howe’s de­but fea­ture he’ll likely never have.

A down­beat yet em­pa­thetic por­trait of teenage men­tal ill­ness that owes a small in­die debt to the un­nerv­ing por­trai­ture of f ilm­maker Lodge Ker­ri­gan, “Gabriel” sim­i­larly stays close to its sub­ject, like a shadow. Culkin makes the most of this at­ten­tion too, vividly por­tray­ing a ner­vous, trauma- rid­den bun­dle for whom you wish a mea­sure of peace, even as he dooms him­self through reck­less ac­tions.

Granted tem­po­rary leave from a fa­cil­ity to visit his fam­ily ( which in­cludes a won­der­ful Deirdre O’Con­nell as his warm, wor­ried mother), Gabriel makes ev­ery ef­fort to steal away and track down a girl he wants to marry. That this mis­sion feels vaguely threat­en­ing cre­ates a mea­sure of sus­pense — Gabriel is work­ing off a years- old let­ter from her, he car­ries a knife, the mu­sic gets in­creas­ingly anx­ious — but Culkin’s per­for­mance is never ex­ploita­tive. His eyes of­ten say ev­ery­thing, ap­pear­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously laser- fo­cused and dis­tant — he can’t rec­on­cile his brain with the world. It’s only the movie’s f inal con­fronta­tion that feels cal­cu­lat­edly abrupt rather than com­pas­sion­ate. But un­til then “Gabriel” ex­hibits a welcome un­der­stand­ing of the bro­ken, and the rip­ple ef­fect of their pain. “Gabriel.” No MPAA rat­ing. Run­ning time: 1 hour, 30 min­utes. Play­ing: Laemmle’s Mu­sic Hall 3, Bev­erly Hills.

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