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Parts You Lose, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Dull, standard stuff."
2 stars

"The Parts You Lose" is a dreary movie about a boy finding a new father figure in a violent fugitive who seems like a minor improvement from his actual dad, with lots of nothing happening under the sort of grey sky that makes things feel more serious and as such does a much better job of making the film memorable just by being above Manitoba-subbing-for-North-Dakota in February than anything that actually happens. It's the sort of blandly generic movie whose very name starts to vanish even while one is watching it, becoming "The Pieces We Lost" or the like when a person tries to recall something about it.

The first person seen under that sky is Wesley (Danny Murphy), a ten-year-old with hearing impairment bad enough that he has to take special classes some distance away from his already-isolated home. His mother Gail (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) works hard to accommodate him; frequently-absent father Ronnie (Scoot McNairy) less so. The area is pretty quiet, but a fleeing gang of criminals got in a shootout at the local hotel, and one (Aaron Paul) turned up in the middle of the path Wesley takes to his bus, unconscious and bleeding. Unable to get his father's attention, Wesley hides him in an abandoned barn, sneaking food and otherwise helping him heal up.

Does Wesley have any idea how this man got shot? It's a potentially intriguing question; there are multiple scenes where Wesley is naturally less aware of the world around him unless someone goes out of their way to get his attention, and the filmmakers tend to drip information about the first major crimes in the area out in the background without doing much to indicate Wesley is seeing the television or that his hearing aid is picking up some muffled version of the news. Writer Darren Lemke and director Christopher Cantwell are building their movie around an isolated kid who finds one person to connect with, and this would be a good way to show just how alone he is.

It's not something they do much with, unfortunately, nor is anything else. The Parts You Lose has the shape of this well-worn plot, but the details are occasionally nonsensical and at other times just not particularly interesting. For all that Wesley's interactions with his father would drive him to this, the contrivance which takes his mother briefly away is easily forgotten once she returns. Wesley's life isn't great, but the filmmakers don't seem to have it in them to torment him and his sister enough to make it desperate. That actor Danny Murphy is authentically deaf becomes something of a double-edged sword; his silent performance is decent but not quite as expressive as the movie needs, and even his signed dialogue is kind of quiet, perhaps a result of him working in a second language (British Sign Language is actually quite distinct from American). This makes it hard for him to communicate with the audience and have a whole lot of individual personality.

As for the rest of the cast, they're mostly okay, but one has to wonder if this is the best work available to Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who is a bright spot as Gail but does not have a whole lot to do. Scoot McNairy by now seems destined for parts like the vaguely scuzzy but kind of ill-defined father, easily and believably dislikable from the moment he appears, just generally the kind of guy who suggests abuse even if the movie isn't actually going to go down that road. Aaron Paul gets to play the same sort of Schrodinger's scumbag, a criminal clearly up to no good but maybe not the one who actually shot a bunch of people, and he's good at giving it whatever the filmmakers are looking for at the moment without losing that he's trouble. It's decent work, but like most of the characters, he fits the part but doesn't make this guy stand out from all the other criminals laying low in the movies.

"The Parts You Lose" doesn't quite feel cranked-out - there's a bit too much talent involved and it looks too good - but it badly needs to have someone, whether character, director, or actor, make an unusual, interesting decision, and that nobody does makes the movie frustratingly dull.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=33383&reviewer=371
originally posted: 10/09/19 13:51:23
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  04-Oct-2019

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